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Washington Lawmakers Seek to Ban Bitcoin at Pot Shops

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

Proposed by Senators Steve Conway and Ann Rivers, the bill seeks to prohibit local weed businesses from being allowed to buy or sell goods using Bitcoin’s digital currency.

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.”

Virtual currency, also known as digital currency, is a medium of exchange not authorized or adopted by any government. Bitcoin, a so-called crypto-currency, is the most commonly used.

Companies that grow pot or sell weed-related products containing it will also fall under the proposed law’s provisions.

The bill specifically states: “A marijuana producer, marijuana processor, or retail outlet must not pay with or accept virtual currency for the purchase or sale of marijuana or any marijuana product.”

Washington state was one of the earliest users of Bitcoin in dispensaries. Spokane-based Kouchlock Productions began accepting Bitcoin payments in 2014 and would obviously be affected by the new bill.

Folks involved in the weed business had hoped that Bitcoin might be the answer to federal banking restrictions that continue to hamstring the legal cannabis industry. Federal law prohibits banks and credit unions from taking marijuana money.

As a result, all the cash floating around makes weed businesses targets for crime. In Colorado alone—which fully legalized pot in January 2014—the Denver Police Department logged over 200 burglaries at marijuana businesses, as well as shoplifting and other crimes, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

While it lasted, Bitcoin has provided legal weed companies with a safe and functioning payment mechanism.

Rob Fess, director of marketing for wholesale marijuana sales platform Tradiv, which does business in Washington state, told CoinDesk that the proposed law further highlights the impact of the bank blockade against businesses in the marijuana industry.

He suggested that a legal backlash is likely to occur in light of the proposal.

“It seems like quite a stretch to single out a specific industry to be excluded from using a particular type of payment—I imagine the lawyers will have a field day with that,” Fess told CoinDesk.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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