Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are urging Congress to act to stem a very specific crime wave in their state: the crime wave against state-licensed marijuana shops.
“More than 50 cannabis stores throughout Washington state have been victimized by robberies so far in 2022. That’s more than 50 robberies in less than three months – many of them by perpetrators with firearms and two of which resulted in people being killed,” they co-wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in Tacoma’s News Tribune.
The two statewide elected officials point out that this is up dramatically from 2021 and finger one prime culprit for this fact.
“[C]annabis businesses have limited financial services available to them and largely operate in cash,” they wrote.
Federal law is to blame. While Washington and 18 other states have legalized recreational marijuana use and sale, cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic.
Since banks are regulated by federal law and insured at the federal level by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), they aren’t allowed to extend their services to Washington’s pot shops.
Inslee and Ferguson’s proposed solution is that Congress ought to “immediately…pass the SAFE Banking Act which would, at long last, allow cannabis retailers to more easily use common cashless payment options such as credit and debit cards.”
The SAFE Banking Act of 2021 passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 321 to 101 and stalled in the U.S. Senate amidst wrangling over larger bills.
According to the legislative summary, if enacted, the bill would prohibit “a federal banking regulator from penalizing a depository institution for providing banking services to a legitimate cannabis-related business.”
It would additionally change federal law so that “proceeds from a transaction involving activities of a legitimate cannabis-related business are not considered proceeds from unlawful activity.”
The Inslee-Ferguson op-ed was published in concert with several actions by Washington state officials.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) sent out a Tuesday “retail safety update” from Chair David Postman.
“Gov. Inslee, Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti and others will be issuing a letter to Congress” urging passage of the SAFE Banking Act, he wrote.
Additionally, Postman said that he had recently met with Washington Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and that her staff assured the LCB “the senator remains a staunch advocate of the bill.”
Washington’s governor also convened a meeting on cashless options for licensed marijuana businesses.
James Morgan, chief financial officer for the state’s Department of Financial Institutions, presented pot retailers with a limited number of banks, credit unions and other financial services that they might be able to use to cut down on cash hordes that criminals have taken to raiding.
Despite federal regulations making such things difficult, at least three of the banks recommended to cannabis sellers – Twin City Bank, Timberland Bank, and Sound Community Bank – all touted FDIC insurance guarantees on their websites.
This article was originally posted on Inslee backs federal banking bill to stop pot store stick-ups