By Anne Holland
Armored vehicle service companies may soon agree to work with dispensaries once again if U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has his way. The recent trend of these companies declining to serve state-legal cannabis businesses prompted one of the sharpest exchanges during yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s otherwise calm hearing on medical marijuana laws.
As MMJ Business Daily reported on August 22nd, the DEA has reportedly pressured armored vehicle services to stop serving state-legal dispensaries. Committee chair Leahy urged Justice Department deputy attorney general James Cole not once, but three times in a row to get the situation “cleared up.”
Leahy said, “We’re hearing that DEA agents, in what seems like a big step away from reality, instructed armored car companies to cease providing services… it creates a problem. We could have some robberies!”, acknowledging the risks posed by the lack of access to banking services in the cannabis industry.
Cole replied that Justice and the governors of affected states all agree this is an “issue”. However, he clarified, “From what I understand, the DEA was merely asking questions of aromored car companies at the time as to what their practices are. The questions occurred before the August 29 guidance memo. At the present time I don’t think there are any instructions.”
Leahy retorted, “That implication is out there and I hope it gets cleared up. I don’t want to see a shoot-out somewhere and have innocent people or law enforcement officers get hurt. I think there should be specific guidance to the financial services industry from your department.”
Hopefully, this development will be sufficient to nudge the armored car services to reestablish business relationships with dispensaries. While none of the organizations contacted by MMJ Business Daily would go on the record, spokespeople who were reached indicated that their companies were examining the situation in light of yesterday’s hearing with a hope toward getting something reconciled.
Cole spent much of the rest of his time in the hearing reiterating the Guidance Memo, and punted financially-related questions as much as possible. He explained that the US Congress should “in its wisdom take up the debate” over the tax code, and that banking regulators would need to work through money laundering statutes as these impact banking for the MMJ industry. However, he did make it sound as though banking regulators were already actively involved in the process, so the industry could expect relief at some point.
To view a streamed video of the entire 1 hour 42 minute hearing, including medical marijuana industry-related financial concerns voiced by MMJ-state Senators Whitehouse (RI) and Blumenthal (CT), go to CSPAN here.