Friday, February 14, 2014

Feds announce guidelines to allow banks to work with marijuana businesses

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 8:04 PM

It was big news last month when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his department would soon release a set of guidelines for how banks could do business with marijuana growers, processors and sellers without risking federal trouble. Today, we got the specifics.

The Justice and Treasury Departments announced a set of guidelines on how banks should work with marijuana businesses. The memo doesn't change federal law surrounding marijuana — it's still illegal and this guidance is, theoretically, subject to change under a new administration — but some marijuana activists hope it can provide their industry more clarity and legitimacy. The industry, medical and now recreational in Colorado and Washington, has struggled to find banks willing to accept what is still federally "dirty" money. Read more about this issue and one Washington lawmaker who thinks the state should operate its own pot bank here.

The new guidelines advise banks to ensure that marijuana businesses are appropriately licensed in their state and are working to follow the priorities set out by the feds when they said they wouldn't intervene with Colorado and Washington's new marijuana markets, like keeping the drug out of minors' hands. The guidelines also outline how banks should report marijuana businesses to federal regulators by identifying them as low priority if they're following state rules and federal priorities or high priority if they're not.

As the Seattle Times reports, the guidelines may not necessarily put banks at ease because they don't carry the same certainty a change to federal law would. 

Read the full guidelines here.

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