New guidelines help banks deal with marijuana businesses

2:19 PM, Jan 24, 2014   |    comments
Before opening for business, a private security guard watches the door at 3D Cannabis Center, a legal recreational retail outlet in Denver. (Photo: Brennan Linsley, AP)
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WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - The federal government is formulating new guidelines that would make it easier for state-legalized marijuana businesses to have access to banks, Attorney General Eric Holder said.

In remarks at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, Holder said Justice and Treasury department officials will soon issue the new regulations in an attempt to provide clearer guidance to banks, which have been hesitant to do business with legal marijuana businesses for fear of possible prosecution under federal law.

"It's an attempt to deal with the reality that exists in these states,'' the attorney general said Thursday, referring to the 20 states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized marijuana for medical use. Two of those states - Colorado and Washington - also have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

"There is a public safety component to this,'' Holder said. "And you don't want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system.

"Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash, just kind of lying around with no place for it to (be) appropriately deposited is something that would worry me from just a law enforcement perspective,'' Holder said.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the attorney general's remarks represent "another indication that the Obama administration really is trying to act in good faith with respect to Colorado and Washington's efforts to regulate marijuana in a responsible way.''

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