So we're legalizing pot banking, but not pot?

The House passed a bill yesterday that will likely have a big impact on companies dealing in legal marijuana sales in the 33 states where that’s currently allowed. Of course, it’s only legal under state law. The upshot of this new legislation is that these companies will be able to go to banks and obtain loans, lines of credit and open savings and checking accounts. The banks will be free from prosecution for financing such corporations. But that doesn’t mean that all of the complications and pitfalls have been removed. (Associated Press)

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would grant legal marijuana businesses access to banking, a measure that would clear up a longstanding headache for the industry.

The bill, called the SAFE Banking Act, passed 321-103 on the strength of near-unanimous support from Democrats and nearly half of Republicans. Its prospects in the Senate are uncertain, but supporters said the amount of Republican support in the House was a good sign.

“This is a sign the time has come for comprehensive cannabis reform,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The fact that we got almost half the Republicans is a huge sign we’re moving in the right direction toward sensible policies.”

I suppose if we’re going to have legalized pot, this was a positive step. I’ve written here numerous times over the years about the mess that’s been created by having marijuana become legal at the state level while remaining a Schedule 1 drug and a felony at the federal level. This is an almost unique situation in the history of American law enforcement and has caused many problems.

We’ve seen people fired from their jobs in states with legal medical marijuana because their employer has federal contracts requiring them to drug test their employees. Businesses have been started up in states that legalized pot only to be shut down by the feds. And as proponents of this bill point out, businesses selling legal weed have been unable to access banking services because the banks feared federal prosecution for handling pot money. This forces some of them to deal strictly in cash, making them targets for robbery.

Of course, I’m not as much of a proponent for legal pot as I used to be. Recent revelations about lung disease caused by vaping (a popular way to intake THC) are alarming, to say the least. I think we might want to slow our roll on all vaping products until more studies can be completed.

Also, as I’ve noted here before, I’ve traditionally based my take on smoking pot to the sort of pot that was going around back in the sixties and seventies. That was typically skunk weed that would barely get someone high. (Or… so I’ve heard. Cough.) The stuff they have today is far more powerful. Further, the rising popularity of “edibles” raises questions about portion control and how much of the drug you’re taking in when eating a harmless looking brownie. We’ve also been seeing legitimate reports of increased incidences of psychosis in long-term users of this more powerful weed.

So opening up banking services for legal businesses is probably a good step to take for now. But the bigger question is whether this pot legalization is a good thing in the long run and if these products need to be more closely regulated.