Friday, December 14, 2012

To sell weed legally, you're going to need a shell company

NPR had a story not too long ago that is of interest, not (or not only) because it is always fun to think about how the world would be a better place if states would legalize & tax it, but also because it highlights the central role of US shell companies in facilitating crime. Since the US won't legalize weed but some states have effectively decriminalized it, it falls to shell companies to ease the federalist rift.

NPR talked to an owner of a "legal" (under state law) medical marijuana business in Washington state:
He described one of the big hurdles of starting a legal marijuana business: It's really hard to get a bank account. His story reveals not only the gray area the marijuana business still inhabits (it's still illegal under federal law), but also just how hard it is to run a small business without a bank. 
Here are four key steps Davis recommends, based on his own experience: 
...4. Create a shell company. Banks don't want to do business with weed shops. But they don't mind opening accounts for legal corporations whose business dealings are vague. "I had to be colorful with the way that I opened my account," Davis said. "I don't feel great about having to toy with the truth, but it's essential for me to have banking. I'm a business."
This might sound like an apology for shell companies. But it is absolutely not.

Rather, the shady area between federal criminal law and state law has opened up an opportunity to find honest people who are willing to talk about shell companies and how they work. They are sympathetic souls who seem to be acting in good faith, so we will listen to them when they tell us the quasi-criminal or criminal-feeling, anyway, path they must travel in order to do something, the essentially criminal nature of which is itself in question.

That presents a fascinating confluence of actors, institutions, lawmaking, and compliance issues, worthy of much further study. Field research anyone?

No comments:

Post a Comment