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Obama Administration Announces Banking Guidelines for Marijuana Business

The Obama administration Thursday afternoon announced new guidelines that will allow financial institutions to provide services to marijuana businesses in states where it is legal. The guidelines will apply to both medical marijuana and legal marijuana states.

Some 20 states and the District of Columbia allow for medical marijuana, while two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana commerce for adults.

Banks and other financial institutions have been increasingly unwilling to deal with marijuana-related businesses for fear of breaking federal laws. That has led to an untenable situation where marijuana businesses are forced to deal in large amounts of cash.

The guidelines were issued by the Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in concert with the Department of Justice. Deputy Attorney General James Cole is also issuing supplemental guidance to prosecutors on how to decide whether to prosecute federal money laundering and Banking Secrecy Act violations related to legal marijuana commerce.

In a joint statement, the two departments said the guidelines will provide "greater financial transparency" in an industry where the federal government is concerned about diversion and the encroachment of organized crime. The guidelines envision financial institutions helping law enforcement with "information that is particularly valuable" by filing regular reports that can provide insight into the industry's contours.

The issuance of the guidelines is the next step in the administration's de facto acceptance of legal marijuana and medical marijuana. Last August, the Justice Department announced it would not seek to undermine state marijuana laws and issued guidance to prosecutors (the "Cole memo") telling them to lay off unless businesses or individuals were violating a set of enforcement priorities, such as diverting marijuana outside the state or making money for organized crime.

Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance, pronounced it a good thing.

"It appears that the Obama administration is trying to provide as much protection as possible for the marijuana industry, given the constraints of federal law," he said. "The assurances the administration have provided appear fairly substantial and will hopefully prove sufficient so that banks will feel safe doing business with the marijuana industry. I have to say I'm impressed by how the White House is trying to make this work, especially given the inability of Congress to do anything constructive in this area."

So did Steph Sherer, head of the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, although she called for a more comprehensive federal response.

"We have been pushing the federal government for years to make these commonsense concessions and we're pleased that the Obama Administration is finally doing so. At the same time, a piecemeal approach to medical marijuana policy is shortsighted and is an issue that deserves a comprehensive public health solution," she said.

"We will certainly be working with banks, credit unions, and credit card companies to ensure proper implementation of this federal guidance," continued Sherer. "Removing the risks of operating as an 'all-cash' business cannot be overstated, but we will also continue to put pressure on the Obama Administration to wrap these types of discrete practices into a more comprehensive medical marijuana policy."

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Could this be another Ogden Memo?

It's a great symbolic victory and things are looking up.. but with only "guidelines" for prosecutors, will this thing be anything more than another Ogden Memo?  How safe will banks REALLY be to service marijuana retailers... with nothing but guidelines and an 'announcement', would they risk facing the same kind of random arbirtary enforcement and raids that MMJ retailers faced all over the country following the Ogden Memo?

still risky for many

Yes, it seems patients are somewhat protected, but the dispensaries they depend on are still sitting ducks, even if the banks happen to feel better. Maybe some dispensaries will continue dealing in cash? Sounds like a tough choice for them. Legalize it!!!

folks still in jail, and still being arrested

And so progress is great and all, so it's about no more marijuana arrests, period. One love!

Missing Links

I'd like to read these articles but none of the links seem to work.  Have you tried them?


Learn to use Google Advanced Search: In the second box, with the title: "this exact word or phrase:" Copy and paste the title of each article, then press the enter key.  "How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs"  "Sweetheart settlement for HSBC bank on drug money laundering charges"   "Wells Fargo: Your Neighborhood Mega-Money Laundering, Drug War Profiteering, Prison-Industry Enlarging Bank"

The Rules Haven't Changed

According to an article by the Washington Times, The Colorado Bankers Association (CBA) wasn't impressed...  Washington Times, "Banks warned they risk prosecution if they follow Obama admin. guidance on marijuana." “Bankers had expected the guidance to relieve them of the threat of prosecution should the open accounts for marijuana businesses, but the guidance does not do that,” said the CBA statement. “Instead, it reiterates reasons for prosecution and is simply a modified reporting system for banks to use. It imposes a heavy burden on them to know and control their customers’ activities, and those of their customers. No bank can comply.” "Childears and Elliott agreed that a congressional fix is needed, either to revise the banking laws, such as by passing the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, or to remove marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act." “It is imperative that Congress not view today’s guidance as the ultimate solution to this public safety crisis,” said Elliott. “Congress must act quickly to solve the problem before we witness a tragedy.”

Why waste our time and money Obama

There is no reason why you will allow banks to take the money from these businesses, yet keep Cannabis as a schedule 1 substance.  This is the total backward way of doing this, and you are not helping anybody in reality, but letting banks profit off of this.  Time and time again for years now I have seen from other countries their research on Cannabis and proven it's effectiveness as a medicinal herb.  Schedule 1 clearly states NO MEDICAL VALUE, and even the United States Government has done the research to show that cannabis in fact as medicinal qualities!  Do the right thing and use your executive power to re classify cannabis appropriately.  My life has been ruined from a simple possession of marijuana charge, and I am non-violent, I contribute beneficially to society, I do legitimate work as a metal fabricator (because of my situation I am forced in to working at Burger King because I don't have my license and no credibility now).  Not just me but thousands of other just like me are in the same boat.  We demand fair treatment with alcohol users, which you said yourself is more harmful than cannabis.  You know it, he knows it, she knows it, EVERYBODY knows it, so why are we still shooting ourselves in the foot?!  Stop all the unnecessary arrests and prosecution for a god given PLANT.  Let us benefit from the revenue of all new types of businesses and regulate it so we know not just anybody can go to a street corner and pick it up.  I am so upset that myself, a very hard-working law abiding citizen had to spend time behind bars because of a small amount of possession, and I wasn't even hurting anybody or myself, I was picked up off the side of the road because my engine died in my car and I was calling a friend to get a tow.

Thank you finally. We can

Thank you finally. We can all stop burying our cash. It's a wonderful problem to have and since I was a child I dreamed of being a drug dealer and Marijuana has allowed many of us to sit around and party and smoke and grow weed everyday. I love my life. I have been to prison for sales of Meth to the CA DOJ and for trafficking cocaine so I paid my dues with 11 years of my life. I was kidnapped by the USA gov and the State of Ca. It all worked out. I am living a green dream of cash and weed.

baby steps

While there has been a lot of progress over the last decade.I can't help but remember we were a lot further ahead several decades back.I remember when Jimmy Carter ran on a promise of legalisation.In Canada,Cretein was also in favor of legal cannabis and now we have Stephen Harper.The forces that have kept us under prohibition for over 100 years have neither given up nor have they come around.If the GOP takes the senate in 2014 you can bet that what we have seen in Republican run states will be the rule of the land.In Canada,we have watched as years of progress and enlightened drug policy was wiped out with one election of an anti drug pro fundamentalist government.If it wasn't for our legal system we would be back to 1950's drug policy here.I hold no such hope for America under the current SCOTUS.

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