Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | 2:37 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei is calling out what he says is the hypocrisy of the federal government accepting tax money from legal marijuana businesses in Nevada but essentially banning them from using the banking system.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada but remains illegal at the federal level, leaving banks hesitant to open accounts for dispensaries and other pot-related businesses. It means the marijuana industry is forced to conduct its business in cash, including paying taxes.
And that’s a lot of cash. Nevada took in almost $70 million in taxes in the first year recreational marijuana was legal.
Amodei, a Nevada Republican, raised his concerns about the issue Tuesday during a meeting of the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
Dealing in so much cash makes legal marijuana businesses a target for criminals and hinders the ability to track money passing through them, he said. It’s counter to the idea of transparency, he said.
But a bill before Congress, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019, would basically legalize banking for cannabis-related businesses in states that have legalized marijuana.
Amodei said he favored special bank accounts for marijuana businesses to allow oversight by regulators. “I don’t want to treat them like a dry cleaner or an auto repair shop,” he said.
The time for the federal government to oppose legal marijuana has passed, Amodei said.
“It’s the law in Nevada now. I think the horse is way out of the barn on the federal government trying to play the whole federal supremacy thing,” he said.
If the federal government had an issue with states legalizing marijuana, it should have acted early on when Oregon or Colorado legalized it, he said.