State legal marijuana business might soon get some help establishing banking accounts. During an appearance at University of Virginia, Attorney General Eric Holder promised the administration would soon release new guidance for federal law enforcement regarding marijuana banking. This presumably should make banks more willing to accept accounts from marijuana businesses. From Politico:
“We’re in the process now of working with our colleagues at the Treasury Department to come up with regulations that will deal with this issue,” Holder said. He added that the new rules were likely to emerge “very soon” and were not intended to amount to a blessing of marijuana by the federal government. “It is an attempt to deal with a reality that exists in these states,” he said.
At issue is that fact that marijuana is still classified Schedule I under federal laws. In the past banks have been threatened with potentially violating anti-drug and money laundering laws unless they dropped marijuana dispensaries as customers. This forces many marijuana businesses to run on an all-cash basis. This not only makes running a business difficult, it also creates serious safety concerns. Cash businesses and costumers known to be carry large amounts of cash are temping targets for criminals.
Letting marijuana businesses open bank accounts would go a long way to making experiments in Colorado and Washington State safer and more successful.
I’ll be interested to see what Holder means by “very soon.” In the past the word “soon” from Holder has meant several months. Back in September the Deputy AG promised the Department of Justice was working on this banking issue, but four months later we are still waiting.
Photo from USDAgov