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From Banking and Finance Law Daily, March 25, 2016

Senators want real dope on marijuana business status

By Katalina M. Bianco, J.D.

A group of senators are urging federal financial regulators to issue “clear guidance” for financial institutions serving legal marijuana businesses. These businesses need access to banking services rather than having to operate on an all-cash basis, the lawmakers said in a letter to the federal banking agencies, Treasury Department, and National Credit Union Administration.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Patty Murray (D-Wash), Michael Bennet (D-Colo), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore) wrote to request that the agencies work together to issue joint guidance for financial institutions. “Currently, many legal marijuana businesses in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and other states that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana are forced to run their businesses using cash because banks won’t serve them, fearing reprisal from the federal government,” the lawmakers stated.

The inability to open a bank account or accept non-cash forms of payments, such as checks, means the businesses must pay taxes in cash and keep large amounts of cash on the premises. Not only is that problematic for state and local governments attempting to collect taxes, it presents a public safety risk for the businesses and surrounding communities. Cash businesses are prime targets for criminals, the legislators wrote.

Although the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued guidance in 2014 on how financial institutions can serve legal marijuana businesses in states that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana, without clearer guidance from all federal regulators, most banks and credit unions are still not serving marijuana-related clients, according to the senators. They further noted that in some cases, businesses only marginally related to the marijuana industry have had their bank accounts shut down.

MainStory: TopStory BankingOperations ChecksElectronicTransfers ColoradoNews CrimesOffenses OregonNews PrudentialRegulation WashingtonNews

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