Green Report: Perceptions of marijuana changing, federal law remains unmoved

It is no secret that the marijuana industry is growing (pun intended).

There are now 28 states that allow the use of marijuana to varying degrees. Last November, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined four other states and Washington, D.C. in legalizing recreational use.

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With this expansion, attitudes towards marijuana are shifting. Public opinion on marijuana has been sitting at a majority approval over the past few years and is expected to increase.

However, a seemingly atypical group of people also majorly approve of weed: police officers.

The Pew Research Center released a study in which a national sample of more than 7,900 police officers were polled on marijuana. Officers from local police and sheriff departments, that had at least 100 sworn officers, gave their opinion on whether or not marijuana should be legalized nationally.

The study showed that 32 percent of the officers believed that marijuana should be legalized for both recreational and medical use. Thirty-seven percent responded that the drug should be legalized but only for medical purposes. The remaining 30 percent stated that marijuana should not be legal at all.*

A reported two-thirds of officers stating that marijuana should be legalized nationally may sound comforting to some, but the drug remains a Schedule I substance. There was a petition to get marijuana rescheduled, however, it was denied by the DEA last August.

The Financial Problem

Marijuana may not be as taboo as it used to be, but it still remains a risky business endeavor for those living in legalized states. Due to the federal law, banks and credit unions are prohibited from accepting money from businesses that sell marijuana. This has created many obstacles for the booming industry. Owners cannot apply for lines of credit nor can they open checking accounts at big banks. This makes transferring and securing money very difficult when everything is literally cash-only.

Some businesses do have bank accounts but with limited (and costly access. In Colorado, about 40 percent of marijuana businesses don’t use a banking account whatsoever.

Of course, there have been those that have taken advantage of the problem. Large amounts of unsecured cash has invited unwanted visitors. The Denver Police department reported that there has been over 200 burglaries at marijuana shops since 2014. However, employee theft is also an issue. Marijuana itself is fairly easy to steal in small amounts, but since everything is dealt in cash, money can go away undetected.

Legislatures here in the state have attempted to set up credit unions specifically for marijuana businesses, but they have not had success. The law that authorized the creation of these cannabis credit co-operative was passed back in 2014. No such credit union has been formed so far, and that’s most likely because the Federal Reserve will not back such an institution.

Perceptions about marijuana may be changing, but federal law remains unmoved. If the marijuana industry is to expand further, it would need to see change at the top.

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*percentages have been rounded