Pubdate: Sun, 24 Apr 2016
Source: Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)
Copyright: 2016 Statesman Journal


The Eugene Home Science Club, which is more than 100 years old, has 
about two dozen members these days.

All the women are age 60 or older. And for a recent meeting, their 
guest speaker was a state specialist in marijuana.

As The Register-Guard reported, "With the advent first of medical 
marijuana, and last year of legal recreational marijuana, residents 
of all ages are curious about the intoxicating buds that rapidly are 
becoming big business."

Only the federal government seems to be clueless about the big 
business of marijuana in Oregon and elsewhere. The feds still 
classify marijuana not only as an illegal drug but as one of the most 

The federal government's reluctance to give up its "Reefer Madness" 
mentality creates financial obstacles. Legal - at least under state 
law - marijuana retailers in Oregon often lack access to traditional 
banking systems and thus conduct most transactions in cash. That 
includes paying their taxes to the Oregon Department of Revenue.

That cash economy also creates security issues for the legal pot 
retailers and, potentially, for the state tax agency. Through March, 
the Revenue Department had processed $6.84 million in marijuana tax 
payments this year. Fifty-seven percent of those payments had been 
made in person, presumably in cash.

"Forcing businessmen and businesswomen who are operating legally 
under Oregon state law to shuttle around gym bags full of cash is an 
invitation to crime and malfeasance," Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said 
last year. He and Sen. Ron Wyden are among the sponsors of bipartisan 
legislation to remove federal barriers to marijuana banking.

People can argue the wisdom of legalizing marijuana. The same has 
long been true of alcohol. But alcohol legally is sold in most of the 
nation, and the state-legalized sale of marijuana gradually is 
expanding as well.

The feds' backward approach serves no useful purpose. Many federally 
chartered banks still refuse to do business with marijuana retailers. 
So do most credit card companies.

Consequently, many Oregon pot retailers cannot accept payments via 
credit or debit cards. Neither can those retailers pay their taxes or 
other bills electronically.

That is changing, slowly. Washington state has progressed to the 
point that the majority of pot businesses submit their state taxes 
electronically. But Oregon will only accept tax payments by cash, 
check or money order.

Oregon has a hefty 25 percent state tax on recreational marijuana 
sales, and a number of local governments want to add their own taxes.

A cash economy for marijuana defies logic. It's past time for the 
federal government to recognize reality, and for the financial 
industry and tax collectors to follow suit.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom