Under (less) pressure
Citing “a senior Department of Justice official,” the Huffington Post reported Friday that the federal government is looking at potentially changing the way its actions dissuade banking institutions from working with medical marijuana businesses.
“During a briefing on the department’s new policy Thursday, the official would not fully rule out prosecution in any case, but the new approach is a reversal of a DEA policy that had warned banks not to work with marijuana businesses,” the Post reported. “The Justice official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the department recognized that forcing the establishments to operate on a cash basis put them at greater risk of robbery and violence.”
The possible shift follows Deputy Attorney General James Cole’s more impactful announcement that the Department of Justice will not sue the states of Colorado and Washington in an attempt to block their liberalized marijuana laws (see Noted).
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter released a statement pushing for further evolution in the law. The Colorado Democrat is a sponsor of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act, which has been languishing in committee since its introduction on July 10, and govtrack.us gives a 2 percent chance of being enacted.
“Currently, under federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses operating legally according to state law are prevented from maintaining bank accounts and accessing financial products like any other business such as accepting credit cards, depositing revenues, or writing checks to meet payroll or pay taxes.” Perlmutter said. “They are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises, inviting crime such as robbery and tax evasion only adding to the burden of setting up a legitimate small business. ...
“[The act] has bipartisan support, and I urge Congressional leaders to promptly move this bill forward to a vote.”
Pair found dead
Pritchard Garrett, the 31-year-old founder of Billygoatgreen MMJ — a marijuana-donation delivery service that was stung by police shortly after we reported on its existence Jan. 30 — was found dead Aug. 10 in a trailer in Las Animas County. Alongside him was his 26-year-old wife Alicia; the sheriff’s office called it a murder-suicide.
Garrett was facing eight charges, and with previous convictions acting as sentence multipliers, the potential for life in prison. Alicia was also facing felony charges, according to the Denver Post. Despite the rap, Garrett told the Indy in May that “it’s not that Billygoatgreen is just some gun-toting, drug-dealing organization. That’s far from the truth. ... I’m doing it because it’s the only thing that I’ve ever loved, and it’s the only thing that I’m good at.”