Sunday, February 5, 2017

Washington State wants to outlaw bitcoin for marijuana industry

A new bill filed in the Washington State Senate is seeking to prohibit local marijuana businesses from using bitcoin.

Sponsored by Senators Steve Conway and Ann Rivers, SB 5264 seeks to amend some of the state’s rules governing the sale and distribution of marijuana products. The move comes more than four years after Washington voters passed a ballot measure legalizing marijuana in November 2012.

Under the proposed rule, businesses that work in the local marijuana industry would not be allowed to either pay for goods with digital currency or accept those kinds of payments from customers. The bill also includes a definition of "virtual currency" that explicitly targets "digital representation[s] of value used as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, or a store of value", but excludes the "the software or protocols governing the transfer".

Digital currency offers a unique opportunity for the legal cannabis industry to grow at its current rate and prepare for Federal legalization. Payments with credit card and digital currency are highly trackable, cash is not. If it is the state's wish to not be able to track cannabis payments, incentivize money laundering and keep the industry a step behind, then this bill would do just that.

Forcing the industry into cash is not only a bad idea, but creates significant risk for community and surrounding businesses. Being a high volume cash business with no banking options creates significant strain within the industry and creates a target for would-be criminals.

Furthermore, collection of taxes is difficult and time consuming when using cash. Digital currency poses a unique opportunity to track the cannabis industries payments leaving a fully auditable trail.

It's time we move into the future and tell Senator Conway and Rivers to not limit innovation, but to protect it. Allow cannabis businesses to use digital currency, move into the future and keep our communities safe.


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