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The Cannabis Industry May Have a New Champion

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a democrat from Massachusetts is one of ten senators that is asking the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) to issue additional guidance to help banks provide services to marijuana businesses. Elizabeth Warren is a member of the Senate Banking Committee and has been known as a staunch advocate for banking reform and consumer protection. President Obama named her as an Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

According to Senator Warren, less than three percent of the country’s nearly 12,000 federally regulated banks and credit unions are willing to do business with marijuana businesses. Banks are heavily regulated by the federal government; since cannabis remains illegal federally, many large institutions refuse to allow marijuana businesses to open accounts. This is true for dispensaries, as well as for businesses that don’t touch the plant such as consultants and security firms. This means that nearly all of the revenue generated from the seven billion dollar industry is in the form of cash.

Reliance on cash transactions creates a number of safety problems. Criminals are aware that dispensaries tend to keep large amounts of cash on-site. Retailers do their best with security alarms and cameras but are still targeted by thieves. Travis Mason was working as a security officer for Green Heart Dispensary in Aurora when he was shot and killed by two thieves in June of 2015. This was a heartbreaking story for many Denver residents; Mason was a husband and a father of three. Cash businesses are notoriously unsafe and his death was a direct result of the lack of access to banking for the cannabis industry.

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