In separate advisories issued by the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, the memos follow comments expressed last month by Attorney General Eric Holder, who noted concerns over the fact that legal cannabis businesses are forced to deal almost exclusively in cash, due to the fact that most banks refuse to work with them.
The advisories state that it is in fact possible for banks to work with cannabis businesses while still avoiding federal scrutiny. In order to do so, the business must not be distributing to minors, trafficking sales to places where cannabis isn’t legal, etc..
Jennifer Shasky Calvery, Director of the Treasury Department, says the new memos are intended to signal that “it is possible to provide financial services” to state-licensed cannabis businesses, while still complying with federal anti-money laundering laws.
“While we believe today’s guidance should provide banks some of the assurances they need to begin doing business with the marijuana industry, it doesn’t solve all the problems,” says Michael Elliott, director of the Marijuana Industry Group. Elliott’s group wants Congress to approve pending legislation that would “provide certainty for banks and allow our industry to operate just like any other business”.
Although Elliott is correct that more work needs to be done, these memos are clearly a step in the right direction.