The Obama administration today gave banks a road map for doing business with legal marijuana sellers without getting into trouble, a step by the federal government toward enabling a legalized marijuana industry to operate in states that approve it. The guidance issued by the Justice Department and Treasury Department was intended to make banks feel more comfortable working with legal marijuana businesses that are licensed and regulated, while preserving the government's enforcement power. To steer clear of trouble, the banks would have to agree to "eight specific conditions, including avoiding dealers that distributed marijuana to minors and those that directed revenue from marijuana sales to gangs and cartels," reports USA Today.
Attorney General Eric Holder signaled the move last month. Pot businesses say something needs to happen because without banks they have to deal largely in cash, a not-so-safe situation. But it's not clear how big of an impact this move will have. The American Bankers Association, for example, said "guidance or regulation doesn't alter the underlying challenge for banks. As it stands, possession or distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and banks that provide support for those activities face the risk of prosecution and assorted sanctions." The group says banks will be comfortable serving marijuana businesses only if federal prohibitions on the drug are changed in law.