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Washington politicians show support for legitimizing medical marijuana industry

To date, a total of 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation making the medicinal use of marijuana legal. While each state has specific laws and restrictions related to the sanctioned use of medical marijuana, all have regulations related to who is legally allowed to grow or produce medical pot in its various forms.

As additional states take measures to legalize medical marijuana, individuals who are licensed to grow and dispense the drug stand to profit handsomely. However, those business owners who profit from marijuana sales face a major dilemma when attempting to protect cash transactions.

Despite individual state laws, the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug which the Drug Enforcement Administration describes as being "drugs with no currently accepted medical use" and "the most dangerous of all drugs." As a consequence, it's illegal for banks and financial institutions to do business with individuals and businesses that profit from medical marijuana.

Despite the federal government's obvious contradictory definition of marijuana, specifically medical marijuana, many Washington politicians continue to strongly oppose legalizing marijuana under any circumstance and in any form. However, despite staunch opposition, members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently showed support for allowing banks to deal directly with medical marijuana businesses without threat of federal money laundering criminal charges.

The House's vote was largely symbolic as members merely "rejected a move ... to block the Treasury Department from implementing guidance," it previously provided to banking institutions. Nonetheless, the House's refusal to further debate the issue speaks to Washington’s changing views regarding medical marijuana.

Prior to the issuing of these guidelines, individuals who profited from the medical marijuana industry had few options and were often forced to hide and store cash. However, officials at the Treasury Department believed that barring banks from doing business with these individuals and businesses created the opportunity for crimes like tax evasion and theft to become rampant.

As the state of Minnesota prepares to deal with issues related to the legalization of medical marijuana, we'll continue to report on the complex legal issues surrounding this controversial topic.

Source: Start Tribune, "House votes to allow banks to deal with marijuana-related businesses," Andrew Taylor, July 16, 2014

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