Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Bank access gets easier for some legal pot shops

- By Kristena Hansen and Gene Johnson

country willing to handle pot money under Treasury Department guidelines issued two years ago has jumped from 51 in March 2014 to 301 last month.

More than three years into Washington’s pot experiment, a majority of businesses are paying taxes electronic­ally, a sign of better access to banks. The state is poised to require electronic payments unless shops can show a good reason to pay in cash.

“People don’t call me anymore and say, ‘I’m opening a new business and I can’t find a bank account,’ ” said Robert McVay, a Seattle marijuana business attorney.

Marijuana’s prohibitio­n under federal law still presents a hurdle for potrelated businesses, which generally can’t accept credit or debit cards due to card companies’ fears about liability for money laundering or other offenses.

Many legal pot shops in Washington, Colorado and Oregon — the only states with legal recreation­al sales — and dispensari­es in medical marijuana states keep ATMs on site to facilitate cash transactio­ns.

Most banking access has been through local credit unions.

Two years ago, the Treasury Department gave banks permission to do business with legal pot entities with conditions, including trying to make sure the customers are complying with regulation­s.

With that in mind, Washington officials began posting the sales activity of licensed marijuana growers, sellers and processors online — along with any warnings or fines issued to businesses caught out of compliance.

The idea was to make it easier for banks or credit unions to find red flags that might indicate illegal activity.

Only two credit unions serviced Washington’s legal marijuana industry early on — Seattle-based Salal and Spokane-based Numerica — but now several others have followed suit, and even big banks seem more tolerant of pot-related accounts, McVay said.

 ??  ?? A bulletproo­f payment window is installed earlier this year at the Oregon Department of Revenue in Salem. The Oregon set-up is for marijuana businesses paying taxes in cash.
A bulletproo­f payment window is installed earlier this year at the Oregon Department of Revenue in Salem. The Oregon set-up is for marijuana businesses paying taxes in cash.

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