Federal Reserve Blocks ‘Marijuana Bank’ in Colorado

COLORADO: Marijuana-related businesses in Colorado are so profitable that the government doesn’t know what to do with all of the tax revenue they’re generating. But business owners face a more immediate problem: Where to stash their own profits when banks won’t take it.

Because marijuana is a federally banned Schedule I substance, most banks have been reluctant to accept deposits from industry businesses. A  clumsy and ambiguous set of guidelines from the federal government, which at least seemed to indicate that banks working with dispensaries operating legally under state law would be shielded from money laundering prosecution, didn’t help.

Now the Federal Reserve is muddying the waters further with a court filing against the Fourth Corner Credit Union, which was established specifically to handle Colorado’s marijuana cash, according to NBC News:

The credit union can’t open without clearance from the Federal Reserve, which said in its filing that “transporting or transmitting funds known to have derived from the distribution of marijuana is illegal…”

The Federal Reserve said in the latest filing that bankers won’t be led away in handcuffs for taking marijuana money, but they don’t have the right to put that money in the Federal Reserve system.

By pushing for approval from the Fed, it was “as if Colorado enacted a scheme to allow trade in endangered species or trade with North Korea,” the filing says.

Pot Risk Vs. Profit: Bankers Cautious Of Marijuana Dispensaries

COLORADO: Every month, Jamie Perino hires a security detail to come to her three recreational marijuana dispensaries. They stop by, collect thousands of dollars in cash and head out to deliver the money to the state, county and city.

Perino, the CEO of Euflora dispensaries, said she can’t find a bank that will work with her. She pays her employees and her landlord in cash. She can only accept cash from customers. She must even pay her taxes in cash.

“I can’t bank my money,” she said. “It’s really frustrating. … When I go to pay my federal taxes, you get a 10 percent penalty for paying in cash, but we can’t have a bank account. So it’s just a big Catch-22.”

Congress’ Summer Fling With Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: It’s not easy being the DEA these days. After an unprecedented losing streak on Capitol Hill, the once-untouchable Drug Enforcement Administration suffered last week what might be considered the ultimate indignity: A Senate panel, for the first time, voted in favor of legal, recreational marijuana.

Last Thursday, the Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 on an amendment to allow marijuana businesses access to federal banking services, a landmark shift that will help states like Colorado, where pot is legal, fully integrate marijuana into their economies. As significant as the vote was, it’s only the latest vote in a remarkable run of success marijuana advocates have had this year on Capitol Hill.

“The amendment was a necessary response to an absurd regulatory morass,” Montana Sen. Steve Daines, one of the three Republicans to support Thursday’s amendment, tells Politico, referring to the multifaceted and complex system of laws that have been enacted over the past four decades to prosecute a war on marijuana. It’s a war that began on or about May 26, 1971, when President Richard Nixon told his chief of staff Bob Haldeman, “I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana …I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.”

Federal Reports Target Colorado Marijuana Money

COLORADO: The federal government is stockpiling hundreds of “suspicious activity reports” that could provide federal agents with sufficient evidence to shut down any state-legalized marijuana business.

While it may appear that federal authorities have taken a wait-and-see approach to marijuana legalization in the 23 states that now allow medical or recreational use, these reports are poised like a blade over the budding industry should federal laws be enforced.

This risk of federal prosecution has led some cannabis companies to literally launder their money.

“You used to be able to just smell it,” said Jennifer Waller, vice president of the Colorado Bankers Association, speaking of the cash from marijuana shops. “But now they are using Febreze a lot, putting the money in dryers, a lot of different things to try to disguise the scent because marijuana has such a distinct odor.”

That distinct odor is considered a red flag by federal authorities who require banks to file a suspicious activity report for every transaction that might be associated with illegal activity, including selling marijuana, even for state licensed businesses.

Feds: Casinos Must Track Pot Business Owners, Workers At Game Tables

COLORADO:  Colorado’s 40 casinos — and hundreds of others, including in the gaming mecca in Las Vegas — are bound by the same money-reporting rules that have made banks reluctant to let legal marijuana businesses open bank accounts, federal authorities now say.

That means casinos can keep anyone associated with legal weed enterprises — from dispensary to grow operations — away from gaming tables anywhere in the country.

And if they do allow them to play, casinos must file the same suspicious activity reports banks must file whenever they handle money derived from pot profits, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Because the government says casinos are financial institutions, like banks, they must have stringent anti-money-laundering programs in place.

 

The Feds’ Scary Reassurances To Banks That Deal With State-Licensed Marijuana Businesses

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. [Read more…]