STATES Act Might Have Opened Up Mobile Payments for Marijuana

December 28, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

The issue of marijuana in the United States has only grown more contentious with legalization efforts on the rise. Marijuana is now actually legal to use, whether medicinally, recreationally, or both, in 33 states, yet since it’s still illegal at the federal level, no one’s all that sure just how legal any of this actually is. Such a point was challenged with the STATES Act, which might have opened up a lot of new options, except it was recently shot down by lawmakers at the Senate level.

Introduced on December 17 by Colorado Republican Cory Gardner, the STATES Act—which here stands for “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States”—was set to take a much more laissez-faire approach to regulation by allowing the states to regulate cannabis industries individually. This included the ability to secure basic banking services like credit card processing and the like, which would take the burden of constant cash-handling off of dispensaries and other such businesses.

This would have dovetailed nicely with natural developments, as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) arm of the US Treasury Department found that 375 banks and 111 credit unions now offer banking services to marijuana firms, up 20 percent just over the course of 2018.

The act was shut down, reports note, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hasn’t exactly been a friend to marijuana legislation in general and shows no signs of changing that stance now. Yet reports suggest that Trump still intends to address the issue now that the midterm elections have concluded.

Admittedly, it was something of a rock-and-a-hard-place for McConnell here; with marijuana still effectively illegal at the federal level, he could hardly be seen passing legislation that basically says “let the states handle it.” It’s not even immediately clear that the STATES Act could have gone through to begin with; there’s that conflict between state and federal law to consider, after all.

Still, with so much interest in marijuana out there to the point that over half the country has voted it in for one reason or another, the issue will not go away any time soon. This means it must be addressed, and in a fashion voters can stomach lest the next election prove much harder than this one for some.