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U.S. House of Representatives passes measure to legalize marijuana

Legal marijuana nationwide would dramatically change the marijuana business in states that have already legalized it.

PHOENIX — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would expunge marijuana convictions and remove marijuana from the list of banned controlled substances, effectively legalizing it nationwide. 

The MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement) would also add a 5% sales tax on marijuana. 

In Arizona, where weed has been legal for more than a year, the passage of the MORE Act by the Senate would bring the marijuana business out of a gray area of legality.

Marijuana is legal to sell statewide, but since the federal government still considers it illegal, most banks will not work with marijuana businesses. The federal government could decide to crack down on marijuana and the proceeds from it. If that happened, the feds could seize that money and put the bank's charter at risk. 

The result in Arizona is a $1.4 billion industry that is essentially all cash. 

"We operate in a very grey area," Steve Cottrell of Curaleaf Dispensary said. "That is an uncomfortable place to be at times."

Because of the banking limitations, industry leaders said their employees also have a hard time doing everyday things like paying taxes. Because there are no paychecks, prospective renters can't provide a paystub to rent a home or apartment. 

"There's a lot of things our employees aren't able to take advantage of," MINT Dispensary's Raul Molina said. 

Legalizing marijuana nationwide would remove those banking roadblocks, Molina said. 

It would also allow for rapid expansion of marijuana businesses by opening up lines of credit. Marijuana businesses would also be able to export the weed they sell to other states and other stores, which is not currently legal.

The MORE Act did pass the US House but is expected to fail in the Senate. Industry leaders note it took repeated ballot measures to legalize marijuana in Arizona.

"We know we're never going to get it on the first run," Molina said.

Legalization Of Recreational Marijuana in Arizona: Everything You Need to Know

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