Attorneys General from 19 states urge Congress to fix pot banking, Nevada not among them

Marijuana suppliers in Las Vegas are racing to stock dispensary shelves just days out from the July 1 start of recreational sales (Nathan O'Neal | KSNV)

Nevada’s multi-million dollar marijuana industry is still a cash-only business and industry leaders say that makes it a top target for crime and violence. Attorneys general from 19 states are now urging Congress in a letter to come up with a federal fix but Nevada’s Attorney General Adam Laxalt is not among them.

“It’s creating such an unsafe environment for the citizens of Nevada and in all the other states,” said Ed Bernstein, who is a co-owner of the Las Vegas Releaf dispensary located near the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

Bernstein’s business is a legal one – but since the feds still classify pot as illegal, using banks is not an option. Every transaction from pot sales to payroll to paying taxes is happening with cold hard cash.

“If we can't put it in the bank -- it's a cash business -- that means we're going to suffer in tax revenue. There's all kinds of potential for criminal activity and quite frankly somebody is going to get killed before this is all over,” said Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom.

Earlier this month, a group of bipartisan state attorneys general sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging the passage of the Safe Banking Act, which would allow the massive marijuana industry access to banks. Laxalt’s name did not appear on the letter and he told News 3 it would be premature to do so.

“Everyone wants to make everything political,” said Laxalt, adding: “We have enforced Question 1, helped write the regulations – we are watching this and waiting to meet with the U.S. Attorney and we’re going to get involved in whatever capacity we can.”

Laxalt’s critics believe he should listen to the will of Nevada voters.

“For our attorney general not to encourage the federal government to change their regulations regarding banking is unacceptable,” said Bernstein.

Industry analysts say legal marijuana sales nationwide topped $6.7 billion in 2016. Sales are expected to hit $20 billion by 2020.

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