The Mendocino Marijuana Museum is dead. It would have probably died of neglect and lack of funding sooner or later, but its bank preemptively killed it off. It was supposed to be a place where the stories of the participants of the modern war on drugs were turned from folklore to history, but people mostly remained in their foxholes, and the war continues…
What happened? On February 29th, the Mendo Lake Credit Union sent a letter to the Museum. Here are some highlights:
Re: MLCU’s inability to maintain accounts for businesses or individuals involving or relating to: Cannabis, Marijuana, Dispensary, Collective, Compassionate, Apothecary, or other related references…
…(Y)our account with us is included in a group of business types that are outside of our administrative capacity. Mendo Lake Credit Union is regulated by a variety of Federal agencies and as a result, cannot contribute to the production, sales, or distribution of unlawful activity according to Federal Law.
The letter then references The DEA Position on Marijuana, a 2011 publication by our Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, which contains the following paragraph:
“…Depository institutions (banks, savings and loans, etc.) that knowingly avail and continue to afford their products and services to commercialized cannabis cooperatives or clubs in order to meet payroll, utilities, security, maintain leases and acquire additional merchandise do so in violation of federal anti-money laundering statutes by promoting the specified unlawful activity of drug trafficking.”
The letter concludes with a link to the DEA position paper and a “request that you locate another commercial banking provider.”
Since I did not actually open that letter until after I received a reminder and a couple of checks returning the balance of the account, I did not call MLCU until April 20th, to point out that the museum and gift shop were not in the business of drug trafficking, and should therefore be able to maintain accounts at any and all banks. The lady who called me back to discuss this stated that my case had been reviewed, and that it had been decided that the museum/gift shop accounts would be closed. I asked if there was some other communication from regulatory agencies that I was not aware of, since the DEA paper says nothing about museums and gift shops. She declined to answer the question, or to go on record about any of this. “We are regulated by several Federal agencies, and we have to serve the community,” she said, somewhat cryptically.
So I tried to open an account with the Savings Bank of Mendocino. The lady I spoke with asked a lot of questions about the nature of the business and its banking needs, and told me that she would have to have my request reviewed at her board meeting before she opened an account. A few days later, she left a message informing me that the board had declined my request. She did not return my call requesting an explanation of that decision.
The lady I called at the Redwood Credit Union thought that it would not be a problem to open an account there, but, after putting me on hold for a few minutes, regretfully informed me that RCU could not accommodate my banking needs, because they are a “Federally regulated non-profit community institution.”
I finally got something like a sensible answer from the gentleman at the WestAmerica Bank. He told me that any account with the abovementioned naughty words in the name could trigger a Federal bureaucratic avalanche and audits at any bank that provides banking services to anyone who has anything to do with the devil weed. It was not profitable to do business with the museum.
At this point I gave up. I was not about to call the Bank of Too-Big-To-Fail to hear the same story, or worse, do business with them.
So, if you care, come by on Memorial Day weekend for our garage sale, and say good-bye to the museum that never really got going.
Peace and good stuff,
Dirk Beittel, aka “Buddy Greene”
PS. If you can’t make it on Memorial Day, don’t fret: most of the exhibits will live on in the Mendocino Censored Museum, which will take over the space. The new museum will celebrate the trend of self-censorship in the land of the free, which is apparently better than taking a chance of irritating the people who own us. As before, all museum content will be user-generated, controversial, and a bit silly.