Too much cash might seem like the kind of problem business owners want to have. But for marijuana businesses, strict limits on banking impose a significant cost and safety risk. Across the value chain, from seed to sale, market players are forced to devote time (and floorspace) to storing and distributing high volume cash payments. The lack of banking availability has also forced most retail businesses to refuse credit or debit card transactions. To work around these restrictions, some businesses have turned to Bitcoin transactions to facilitate cash-free payments for retail and medical marijuana. Recently, Washington State Senators Steve Conway and Ann Rivers have introduced a bill that would implement a Washington marijuana bitcoin ban, barring all use of bitcoin for cannabis transactions.
The state senators claim that state regulators may be unable to track marijuana transactions that are conducted in Bitcoin. GeekWire reports that State Senator Rivers is concerned that the state is unable to meet its regulatory obligations because “there’s no tracking of cryptocurrency.”
This isn’t an unreasonable concern. Members of the cannabis industry, however, note that if legislators wish to protect the industry from money laundering or the involvement of out-of-state actors, the much more common untrackable currency is cash dollars. State Senators Conway and Rivers have presented a solution in search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist.
We at the Daily Leaf are happy to take an editorial stance and condemn this proposed law. Most cannabusinesses that use Bitcoin do so not out of desire, but out of necessity. Instead of finding ways to restrict payments in legal marijuana industries, state legislatures should be working with their counterparts in the United States Congress to find ways to facilitate banking services for marijuana businesses. If truly want to protect the integrity of the cannabis industry, it’s time to take it out of the dark days of cash businesses and armored vans and into the world of NFC payments, digital transactions, and plain old bank accounts.