New bill would let marijuana shops use banks

Pot shops would have access to banks under new legislation in the Senate.

The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, introduced Thursday in the Senate, would allow marijuana companies to store their money in banks.

Dispensaries are currently blocked from the banking system. Even though a number of states have legalized the use of medical and recreational marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law.

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This pot paradox has forced many marijuana businesses to keep their cash in their stores because banks are prohibited from doing businesses with them.

The marijuana legislation would wipe away these prohibitions. The senators say this would improve safety and streamline taxes in the industry.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Finance: Lawmakers call for criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Ryan sees recession without tax reform | Aide defends Trump Cuba deals Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal MORE (D-Ore.), one of the sponsors of the bill, called the present rule an “invitation to crime.”

“Current federal laws are making marijuana businesses sitting ducks for violent crimes and perpetuating negative stereotypes,” said Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security MORE (D-Ore.), another sponsor of the bill.

Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerState official hints more Chinese firms being probed for N. Korean ties GOP senators ask watchdog to examine Gitmo site surveys spending GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-Colo.), Michael BennetMichael BennetEconomists have a message: Clinton's policies are wrong for America Senate rivals gear up for debates Grassley pulling away from Dem challenger MORE (D-Colo.) and Patty MurrayPatty MurrayElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Congress approves .1B in Zika funds Lawmakers pledge push for cures bill in lame-duck MORE (D-Wash.) are also backing the legislation.

Marijuana groups said the bill would be a step in the right direction.

“Without banks, many of our members are forced to operate entirely in cash, which puts their employees at risk for crime,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The legal marijuana industry is worth nearly $3 billion nationwide. We shouldn’t be forced to carry that around in duffel bags.”