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Washington Medical Cannabis Bitcoin Payment Ban?

A bill before the Washington State Senate is seeking to medical marijuana businesses from using crypto and virtual currencies such as bitcoin.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, the US cannabis industry has experienced a cash crisis of sorts; due to many operators being refused financial services by conventional banks. This has meant many deal strictly in cash, which creates serious security and other concerns.

Virtual currencies such as bitcoin have been touted as an interim solution, helping to avoid the need and expense of having armed guards on site and also reducing the complexity of record keeping.

However, the use of bitcoin is now under threat in Washington State.

A Bill (SB 5264) sponsored by Senators Steve Conway and Ann Rivers seeks to prevent those in the industry paying for goods or accepting payments in virtual currency.

As bad as this may be for operators in Washington, the fear is that similar bills could pop up elsewhere across the USA.

As for the motivation behind the Bill, Senator Rivers states:

“After all the work we’ve done to get a handle on the cannabis industry and help move it out of the shadows, allowing the use of unregulated currency for cannabis purchases doesn’t promote the level of transparency we committed to develop.”

Aside from issues of fairness, i.e. the singling out of those in the cannabis industry, some may consider the legislation an instance of putting the cart before the horse. Why implement such legislation while the banks still refuse to deal with the industry? As for moving the industry out of the shadows, this legislation could push it back into a dangerous gloom.

The Bill could potentially be a major step backwards for a state widely considered as one of the most cannabis-friendly in the country. Medicinal cannabis has been legal in Washington State for close to twenty years. In 2012, its residents also voted in favour of legalising recreational marijuana.

Washington State has a voluntary patient registration scheme, with an estimated 12,000 patients registered. Those registered are able to may cultivate up to 6 plants at home for their personal medical use. While there are no state-licensed dispensaries, marijuana retailers are permitted to sell medical cannabis.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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