Legalizing marijuana was half the battle; banking the profits remains a big hurdle



January 13, 2020 - 9:49 AM

Winning passage of laws legalizing marijuana use in Missouri and Illinois might have been the easy part. For businesses involved in growing and dispensing marijuana, sales are booming but they have yet to figure out what to do with all that cash. Unlike other businesses, they can’t just deposit their proceeds in the local bank.

Regardless of how many states like Illinois have legalized recreational marijuana or medical marijuana, as Missouri has done, pot remains a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law. Depositing the proceeds from pot sales into the federally regulated banking system remains illegal, which means sellers and growers have to find creative alternatives. In other words, they must learn how to launder effectively enough to avoid a federal crackdown.

Money laundering conjures all kinds of nefarious images attached to the luxury condominiums and fast boats purchased by drug traffickers during the 1980s cocaine craze. Colombian cartels hired Ivy League financial wizards specifically to help them invest their drug earnings in legitimate enterprises.

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