By Stephen C. Webster on January 24, 2014

Pot purveyors in states that permit adults to use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes will soon be able to deposit their money in bank accounts, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.

Speaking at the University of Virginia, Holder explained that cash-only marijuana sales create unnecessary security risks. Current law prohibits banks from accepting money they know to come from the sales of illegal drugs, which has caused enormous problems for dispensaries in the 20 states that permit marijuana sales.

"There's a public safety component to this," he said. "Huge amounts of cash -- substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited -- is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective."

"They want to be able to use the banking system," he added. "And so, we will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue."

Despite growing outcry from the scientific and medical communities, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency continues to classify marijuana as Schedule I, a class reserved for the most disorienting and harmful substances like LSD, peyote and heroin. The British medical journal Lancet, however, ranks marijuana as significantly less harmful to society than alcohol.

President Obama made a similar statement in conversations with New Yorker reporter David Remnick, according to a story the magazine published last weekend. The President said that marijuana's dangers are no worse than alcohol "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer," adding that "it's important" for legalization to move forward in Colorado and Washington due to the vast racial and economic disparity evident in marijuana arrest statistics. The President also said he's told his daughters that marijuana use is "a bad idea, a waste of time, [and] not very healthy." The White House later clarified that Obama does not support legalization.

Holder did not specify when marijuana sellers would be granted access to the U.S. banking system. It is also unclear whether banks will be able to issue credit or business loans to marijuana entrepreneurs, many of whom view the increasingly accepted industry as a potential financial boom in the making.

Officials in Colorado anticipate that newly minted marijuana businesses will generate over $578 million in sales for their state in 2014 alone, and about $67 million in new tax revenues. Economists estimate the total value of U.S. marijuana sales each year to be somewhere between $10 billion and $40 billion.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron also estimated in 2010 that an additional $20 billion in new tax revenues and cost savings on law enforcement could be reaped from the industry if marijuana is legalized nationwide and regulated similarly to alcohol.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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