House Votes To Make It Easier for Banks to Do Business With Pot Shops. But The President Already Did That.

July 17th, 2014

In Colorado and Washington, marijuana is legal. But it is still illegal under federal law, and banks that do business with the pot shops engage in federal money laundering crimes. Yet, the Treasury Department issued “guidance” telling the banks how to deal with marijuana-money. Even though it is illegal under the federal law. Banks are reasonably cautious.

Marijuana dealing is still against federal law, so banks who do business with marijuana dispensaries could be accused of helping them launder their money. Federal money laundering convictions can mean decades in prison.

The Treasury guidance was intended to give banks confidence that they can deal with marijuana businesses in states where they’re legal. Many banks are still reluctant to do so.

As I discuss in Congressional Intransigence and Executive Power, the President non-enforcement of all laws related to marijuana is disregarding huge swaths of federal law. Though here it is not even as means to avoid a constitutional violation, but rather as an expression of his policy preferences. To use an example that may rancor others, imagine if President Ted Cruz declined to enforce certain environmental laws against Texas businesses, and instructed his DOJ not to prosecute them based on EPA “guidance.” Yeah, that wouldn’t fly.

Anyway, through bipartisan support, the House passed a bill that would allow banks to do business with pot shops, the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013. It would eliminate certain offenses for banks that “provided financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business,” and make them “immune from Federal criminal prosecution or investigation for providing those services.”

You see, this is the way laws are made.

The House voted Wednesday in support of making it easier for banks to do business with legal pot shops and providers of medical marijuana.

The 236-186 vote rejected a move by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., to block the Treasury Department from implementing guidance it issued in February telling banks how to report on their dealings with marijuana-related businesses without running afoul of federal money-laundering laws.

But the funniest part of the article is that it says the bill is “symbolic” because the President has already done it.

The vote is largely symbolic since Treasury already had gone ahead with the guidance, but it demonstrates a loosening of anti-marijuana sentiment on Capitol Hill.

This is staggering. We don’t even distinguish between laws made by the executive and laws made by Congress anymore. No, the vote is not symbolic. This would actually change the law.