DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: On Friday the Treasury Department and the Justice Department issued guidelines for banks that do business with state-licensed marijuana suppliers. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the aim of the memos is to reassure financial institutions that are leery of accepting cannabusinesses as customers because they worry it will attract unwanted attention from federal regulators and prosecutors.
But as with the August 29 memo in which Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that prosecuting properly regulated marijuana growers and sellers would not be a high priority, there are no guarantees, and that fact is likely to deter traditionally cautious banks more than plucky cannabis entrepreneurs.
The Treasury memo, issued by the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), says the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requires financial institutions to file “suspicious activity reports” (SARs) for all marijuana businesses. But FinCEN draws a distinction between marijuana businesses that violate state law or implicate one of the Justice Department’s “enforcement priorities” and marijuana businesses that do neither.
The former merit “marijuana priority” reports, while the latter fall into a newly invented “marijuana limited” category. According to the memo, this distinction “aligns the information provided by financial institutions in BSA reports with federal and state law enforcement priorities.”