U.S. now encouraging banks to work with marijuana sellers

The latest turn in the U.S. softening its tone on marijuana comes not in the legal sector but from the financial world.

The Justice Department recently issued a decision to allow states with legal marijuana laws (namely Colorado and Washington) to start regulating the sale of pot as a legal substance, just like alcohol. The government decided they’re taking a hands-off approach, and marijuana businesses in those states can operate without fear of shutdown by the Feds.

There’s just one problem: Most banks still won’t work with marijuana sellers, since the businesses are illegal under federal law.

Thus many marijuana dispensaries can’t open checking accounts or accept credit card payments, which forces them to be all-cash businesses. Which is dangerous.

“That’s a prescription for problems,” potentially including armed robberies, said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to ABC.

Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, second in command at the Justice Department behind Eric Holder, agreed. “Obviously there is a public safety concern when businesses have a lot of cash sitting around,” Cole told the committee. “There is a tendency that there are guns associated with that, so it’s important to deal with that issue.”

Their solution? The Feds are now encouraging banks to work with marijuana businesses, and treat them as legal, legitimate firms.

Cole said the DOJ is now working with the Treasury and “bringing in bank regulators to discuss ways that this can be dealt with in accordance with the laws that we have.” The end goal is to legitimize the marijuana businesses in the banks’ eyes so that they can operate with normal accounts, lines of credit, etc, to minimize the danger that comes with operating as an all-cash business.

Cole concluded that it’s “an issue that we need to deal with.”

Of course, the irony of the Feds complaining about the “tendency that there are guns associated” with all-cash businesses is that they’re ones who are still insisting marijuana needs to be illegal at the federal level. There are a whole lot of guns and cash involved outside of Colorado and Washington that they could also get rid of by federally legalizing pot. In their place would be an entire industry of legitimate taxable businesses, which would be good for banks and good for the deficit.

But then, you’d need Congress to actually pass a law. And with one of the most ineffectual Congressional sessions on record sitting on the hill, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

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