As the House once again votes against allowing marijuana dispensaries to have access to banking, a congressman wants his colleagues to remember that cash-rich dispensaries can be targets, just like Green Heart in Aurora, Colo., was when security guard Travis Mason was shot and killed during a robbery attempt. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Congressman: Vote against pot banking? Get a tattoo of slain security guard’s name

Rep. Denny Heck says his House colleagues who opposed allowing marijuana dispensaries access to banking need to remember Travis Mason, who was shot as a Colorado dispensary was being robbed

A prominent U.S. Congressman is suggesting that House Republicans who last week nixed a budget amendment meant to give legal cannabis businesses access to banking get a tattoo that reads “Travis Mason” — the name of the security guard murdered earlier this month during an attempted robbery of a Colorado pot shop.

Mason, 24, died of a gunshot wound to the head after he was shot three times at Green Heart marijuana dispensary in Aurora. The former U.S. Marine had dreams of becoming a police officer.

Mason’s death has members of the marijuana industry reeling and nervous about their own safety. Aurora police investigators on Monday released surveillance images of the men suspected of shooting and killing Mason, who are still at large.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Senate recently passed an amendment that would allow banks to do business with cannabis companies without fear of government retaliation — before their Republican counterparts in the House stalled on a similar amendment.

While some marijuana businesses have quiet relationships with banks, most financial institutions don’t publicly work with cannabis companies because the drug is still federally illegal. Many weed businesses still operate solely in cash, making them target-rich environments for criminals.

And that’s why Representative Denny Heck of Washington is now saying that his House colleagues who voted down the marijuana banking amendment should get Mason’s name tattooed on their bodies. As National Journal reports (the full story is only available to members), when Heck was asked why he sup­por­ted the pro­pos­al, he said, “Trav­is Ma­son.”

“Trav­is Ma­son,” the con­gress­man re­peated. “Every single mem­ber who opposed allowing this amend­ment ought to have that young man’s name tat­tooed on their body to re­mind them.”

The story adds that the House amendment wouldn’t have been an outright green light to the financial industry:

But even Heck ac­know­ledges that the bill wouldn’t do enough to as­suage the bank­ing in­dustry. In a writ­ten state­ment, James Bal­lentine, a top of­fi­cial at the Amer­ic­an Bankers As­so­ci­ation, said that en­cour­age­ment and guid­ance “isn’t enough,” adding that Con­gress must change a num­ber of laws be­fore banks would feel “com­fort­able” bank­ing marijuana busi­nesses.

“Fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tions face sig­ni­fic­ant risk for vi­ol­at­ing fed­er­al law if they of­fer bank­ing ser­vices to marijuana-re­lated busi­nesses,” Bal­lentine wrote. “The fed­er­al stat­utory bar­ri­ers in­clude the Con­trolled Sub­stance Act, USA Pat­ri­ot Act, Bank Secrecy Act, Rack­et­eer In­flu­enced and Cor­rupt Or­gan­iz­a­tions Act, and oth­er fed­er­al stat­utes.”

“En­cour­age­ment is great, but pos­ses­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion of marijuana is still il­leg­al un­der fed­er­al law,” he ad­ded.