Next Big Step for Pot Business: Banks?

Holder says feds are working on new regulations

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 24, 2014 7:23 AM CST | Updated Jan 24, 2014 7:57 AM CST

(Newser) – The Obama administration will soon take the radical step of allowing legal pot businesses to actually put their money in banks—sort of. At an event yesterday, Eric Holder said he was working with the Treasury Department on new regulations and would unveil them "very soon," Politico reports. "There's a public safety component to this," the attorney general explained. "Substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around ... is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective."

But a Justice Department spokesperson later said that it would merely issue legal "guidance" telling prosecutors not to prioritize such cases. That might not be enough for banks; the American Bankers Association tell the New York Times that they'll want "a lot of detail from regulators"—and assurances they won't be prosecuted—before they'll feel comfortable taking the money. States with legalized marijuana have been clamoring for such a change, as have the companies themselves, who say they're overburdened with cash. But the Times notes it's unclear whether what the DOJ is preparing would extend to all states that have OKed medical marijuana, or just Colorado and Washington. It would be a rare pro-pot step from what's been a virulently anti-pot administration, and comes on the heels of President Obama's recent much-discussed comments on it.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during an interview with Douglas Blackmon on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during an interview with Douglas Blackmon on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.   (AP Photo / The Daily Progress, Ryan M. Kelly)
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