Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that the department is preparing "legal guidance" for prosecutors and law enforcement in an effort to clarify how these businesses should be able to access the banking system. This doesn't mean that the guidance will necessarily mean an "all's clear" for legal dispensaries. The federal government issued a similar guidance in 2009 that was then ignored by law enforcement when raiding the very shops the guidance was expected to protect. The guidance, Politico noted when it was issued, "wouldn't be enforceable in court and would amount to less than the kind of clear safe harbor many banks say they would want before accepting money from pot businesses."
It's time to stop this nonsense. The voters of Colorado and Washington believe marijuana should be legal, and medical marijuana is legal in another 18 states and the District of Columbia. Even my home state of New York is launching a medical marijuana trial program. The last three Presidents have used it, most of our Congressional leaders have tried it and we're increasingly unlikely to have another president who can even claim that he (or she) didn't inhale.
So there's no reason for the small business owners to bear the brunt of the federal government's desire to enforce a marijuana prohibition law its own people don't support and many states have thrown out – and there's even less reason to make the men and women employed by the private banks and credit card companies the de facto enforcers of that law. If it's going to be legal, small business owners who sell it should have the same access to the financial system (and the protections that system provides them) as any other small business owner in America.
The only way to make the system safe, secure, easy to monitor and taxable is to make it like every other business in the eyes of the (federal) law and the banks that can help it grow.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.