The Winkelvoss twins, the brothers purportedly shortchanged for their contributions to the internet behemoth Facebook, have supposedly latched on to a potentially even greater economic juggernaut called “Bitcoin”. Bitcoin is indeed revolutionary as it threatens to become a form of electronic economic currency that would replace the role of cash or other credit card transaction in the new digital era. 

While there is no official “Bank of Bitcoin” or other commercial exchanges where these electronic credits may be cashed in, there is nonetheless an honor system and exchange where individuals and businesses may use this currency to facilitate trade. News reports attribute the prediction that a nation’s currency may be someday be based on the Bitcoin’s electronic currency to the Winklevoss twins.

A bold prediction indeed! While waiting to see if it bears fruit, it’s clear that others have sought to establish Bitcoin as the unofficial currency of illicit trade. Why? Because it  has the potential to be difficult to trace, difficult to seize, and vexing to potential criminal and civil forfeiture actions. As such, Bitcoin stands to become the coin of the underworld realm. 

While at first glance it may seem that the Bitcoin-based, nefarious activities would be safer to pursue than cash-based transactions, the federal and state authorities are not likely to be deterred in their goal to prosecute offenders regardless of the ethereal, electronic nature of the Bitcoin currency. Criminal and civil laws are directed at things of value regardless of whether its value comes from a recognized cash currency. In this new era, the physical currency may be removed, but the value still stands with the transfer of electronic credits to facilitate an illegal transaction. Hence, the transaction is subject to civil and criminal prosecution.

We wish the Winkelvoss twins well in their new venture, but we caution those who think they may have found the means to thwart the long arm of the law. Think again, as the currency may be replaced but responsibility for committing the crime has not. 

HIGH TIMES attorney David Holland now provides legal advice for the cannabis community.
Follow him at @LegalizeItLaw.