But marijuana is not legal, no matter what the states do with their own laws and no matter how many times the NYT says "legal marijuana" (7, in that one article). It's a crime under federal law, and federal law wins. Banks don't want to be accused of aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise, and until the federal law changes, there are going to be entrepreneurs in the marijuana business holding and moving around large packs of cash.
They pay employees with envelopes of cash. They haul Chipotle and Nordstrom bags containing thousands of dollars in $10 and $20 bills to supermarkets to buy money orders. When they are able to open bank accounts — often under false pretenses — many have taken to storing money in Tupperware containers filled with air fresheners to mask the smell of marijuana.These people are a type of criminal that we're currently — some of us — pretending are not criminals, and they are also targets for the type criminal — robbers — that we easily see as criminals. (How would you like to be a humble sales clerk, walking to your car late at night?)
The marijuana entrepreneurs are pioneers in a legal twilight zone, and it will be interesting to see how they amass power through acquiring the money to lobby and the trappings of respectability by behaving like other businesspersons, operating in the open, paying taxes, complying with the regulations of the state law that we're encouraged to think has "legalized" what they are doing.
Like other business persons, in the effort to make a profit, they accept risk. But unlike other business persons, part of the risk they are taking is in violating the criminal law. This risk — since they are acting openly — creates pressure on the federal government to change the law. But until that risk pans out, they've got a bad problem with all that cash that the banks won't risk handling.