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Will Federal Laws Make Pot Stores Targets for Criminals, Drug Cartels? Banks Say No to Pot Money

Banks refused pot store money, officials fear crime targets
(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Because federal laws prohibit financial institutions from accepting money from drug sales, most banks are saying “no” to accepting money from pot stores.

Perhaps an oversight, or just an unintended consequence from the legalization of marijuana?  The New York Times did an excellent in-depth study of how perhaps WA and Colorado are inadvertently setting themselves up for big-time crime.   According to the Times, herein lies the root of the problem:

“The problem underscores the patchwork nature of federal and state laws that have evolved fitfully as states have legalized some form of marijuana commerce. Though 20 states and the District of Columbia allow either medical or recreational marijuana use — with more likely to follow suit — the drug remains illegal under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act, enacted in 1970 classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous category, which also includes heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

As a result, banks, including state-chartered ones, are reluctant to provide traditional services to marijuana businesses. They fear that federal regulators and law enforcement authorities might punish them, with measures like large fines, for violating prohibitions on money-laundering, among other federal laws and regulations.” (bold lettering added for emphasis).

Several stories have already surfaced about Colorado officials worrying about their state-run dispensaries that have already opened and how they are bulging with cash – making them not only big targets for robberies, but also perhaps drug cartels.   Most of the national marijuana groups say banking now is the biggest issue facing the pot industry.

   One Colorado man has even started a special security company, kind of like Halliburton, which offers special security for marijuana stores in that state.  Using ex-military and highly trained former law enforcement officials, this firm will serve as almost an “army” to provide security services to help guard the pot stores if the owners want to utilize them!

 Another fear especially in Colorado where sales are already underway, is that drug cartels will view the millions of dollars they are losing to the state pot stores as “competition” that needs to be eliminated.  Some officials fear the cartels will try to intimidate pot store owners with Mafia-like shakedowns, or worse yet,  infiltrating them.  Some say the cartels will try to use “clean” upstanding people to obtain a pot store license, then turn it into an underground cartel sale location – selling pot legally and illegally.  WA officials are keeping a close eye on how things go in Colorado, as their sales are already under way.

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