Treasury Defends Rules On Banks, Marijuana Sellers

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s guidelines to banks conducting transactions with legal marijuana sellers as congressional Republicans questioned whether the guidance amounts to tacit federal approval of a drug illegal in most states.

The Justice and Treasury departments issued a roadmap in February that would allow the new businesses to make payroll, save money and pay taxes, a move that enables the legalized marijuana industry to operate in Colorado and Washington state. In 2012, the two states became the first to approve recreational use of marijuana.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, challenged Lew at a hearing, questioning whether guidance to banks on doing business with legal marijuana sellers represents a “rubber-stamp” by the federal government for a predominantly illegal activity.

“Without any guidance, there would be a proliferation of cash-only businesses, and that would make it impossible to see when there are actions going on that violate both federal and state law and that … would be a real concern,” Lew told the House subcommittee on financial services. “We thought that the clarity, bringing it into daylight, was a better solution.”

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…]