warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Marijuana Merchants Denied Bank Accounts

Francesca Bessey |
January 12, 2014 | 10:01 a.m. PST

Executive Producer

(StockMonkeys.com, Creative Commons)
(StockMonkeys.com, Creative Commons)
It's not criminal, but it might as well be. At least that's how one medical marijuana seller in Washington state feels.

Ryan Kunkel is a legal marijuana merchant and owns several dispensaries in the Seattle area. But because banks are worried about the implications of being in professional cahoots with "drug dealers," many—incuding state-chartered ones—are denying their services to marijuana sellers.

SEE ALSO: Activist Marijuana Dispenser Blends Politics And Business

As a result, businesspersons like Kunkel often can't accept credit card payments, and resort to carting tens of thousands of dollars to state agencies in order to pay their taxes in person

Though marijuana is medically legal in 20 states (and the District of Columbia), and recreationally legal in two, the federal government still classifies it as the most dangerous type of drug, alongside heroin and ecstasy, giving banks that serve weed sellers, legal or not, a reasonable fear that the federal government will impose fines or other sanctions for violating federal law. But this comes at great cost to those who make their living this way.

SEE ALSO: Price Of Weed Explodes In Colorado

"Banking is the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today," said Aaron Smith, Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. "So much money floating around outside the banking system is not safe."


Read the full story at The New York Times.

Reach Executive Producer Francesca Bessey here; follow her here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.