Banking On The Marijuana Industry?

OREGON: It is legal to sell marijuana in 23 states. But pot businesses can’t deposit their money in banks because of federal banking laws. While the dilemma has been a back-burner issue in Congress for several years, a solution may be in the works.

A provision in the upcoming financial services spending bill would prevent the federal government from spending money on penalizing financial institutions that accept legal marijuana businesses as clients. That would greatly reduce the ability of federal agencies’ to prosecute the banks.

Increased access to banking would, in turn, decrease the currently cash-only businesses’ risk of robbery by allowing customers to pay with debit and credit cards, reduce the likelihood that the business could be used as a money-laundering front and solve the nightmare of trying to pay taxes with cash

“Forcing businessmen and businesswomen who are operating legally under Oregon state law to shuttle around gym bags full of cash is an invitation to crime and malfeasance,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. “It’s time to let banks serve these legal businesses without fearing devastating reprisals from the federal government.”

Big U.S. Banks Seek New Clarity On Risks Of Marijuana-Linked Accounts

MISSOURI: Major banks are getting increasingly wary of some transactions with smaller banks that have begun to allow marijuana businesses to open accounts. Officials at the bigger institutions say they fear being in breach of anti-money laundering laws and are pressing federal authorities to make it clear what is legitimate and what is illegal.

The problem arises because in Colorado and Washington states, marijuana for general use is legal, and in a host of other states it is legal for certain medicinal purposes. But the business is still illegal under federal law, and U.S. banks are required to report transactions that they suspect involve money earned through illegal activities.

The bankers, including anti-money laundering officials at three of the biggest U.S. banks, expressed concern that their firms could face civil and even criminal penalties not only for dealing with any of the businesses directly but also handling money from the estimated dozens of small and mid-sized banks that have begun working with the marijuana shops or their suppliers.

The bankers say the U.S. Treasury Department’s anti-money laundering unit needs to clarify its expectations for the handling and reporting of wire transfers and other payments that involve people and entities linked to state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.