DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Despite bankers’ varied attitudes about legalizing marijuana, now that it is legal in Colorado, banks are supportive of government efforts to permit financial services for marijuana businesses. However, numerous obstacles prevent banks from serving marijuana businesses and their customers as they conduct legal activities.
Colorado can’t regulate or tax an industry for which it cannot track money. Public safety risks associated with cash-heavy businesses cause concern. And several federal laws preclude banks from serving these businesses, regardless of state law. Only Congress can resolve this.
While recent comments by U.S. Attorney General Holder indicate his plans to issue “guidance” against prosecuting banks for providing accounts to marijuana businesses, he cannot change the fact that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and banks must follow all laws. You can’t change water into wine. Banks are responsible to regulators, most of which are independent and uncontrolled by the president’s executive branch. The idea of no prosecution is nice, but to banks regulators have the real power.