U.S. Issues Marijuana Guidelines for Banks
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U.S. Issues Marijuana Guidelines for Banks
Posted by CN Staff on February 14, 2014 at 16:08:59 PT
By Serge F, Kovaleski
Source: New York Times 
Washington, D.C. -- The Obama administration on Friday issued guidelines intended to give banks confidence that they will not be punished if they provide services to legitimate marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of the drug, even though it remains illicit under federal law.The guidance, which requires banks to vigorously monitor their marijuana-industry customers, was provided by the Treasury Department and the Justice Department in separate advisories. The policy does not grant immunity from prosecution or civil penalties to banks that serve legal marijuana businesses. But it directs prosecutors and regulators to give priority to cases only where financial institutions have failed to adhere to the guidance.
Still, the banking industry was quick to say that the new guidelines would not be sufficient to make banks feel at ease about opening accounts for or granting loans to marijuana businesses because the drug would still be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. “While we appreciate the efforts by the Department of Justice and FinCEN, guidance or regulation doesn’t alter the underlying challenge for banks,” Frank Keating, president of the American Bankers Association, said in a statement, referring to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Treasury unit that issued the guidelines. “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.”Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and two of those states, Colorado and Washington, have also legalized the recreational use of the drug. Those numbers may grow this year, as several other states are considering measures to legalize marijuana use. In a three-page memo to prosecutors issued in conjunction with the new banking guidelines, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole wrote that prosecutions may not be “appropriate” when banks do business with marijuana entities that are operating legally under state law and do not violate any of the eight priorities set forth in a Justice Department memo last August. Those priorities include preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors and preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises.Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said she was unaware of any banks that have been punished over the years for servicing legal marijuana businesses.Legal marijuana entrepreneurs have stressed that access to banking has been their most pressing concern. Their businesses are conducted almost entirely in cash — raising huge security concerns — because it is difficult for them to open and maintain bank accounts, or to accept credit cards. Banks have been apprehensive about providing services to marijuana businesses for fear that authorities might punish them for violating money-laundering laws, among other federal statutes and regulations.Last month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. acknowledged that having so much cash on hand presented a public safety problem for legal marijuana businesses, adding that they should have access to the country’s banking system.Some representatives of the legal marijuana industry said that although the guidelines showed progress, federal laws need to be revamped.“It’s a great step in the right direction, but ultimately it would not solve all the problems here,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group in Colorado. “We need to go beyond saying that this is a low law enforcement priority. There are still violations of federal law going on here. So, federal laws need to be changed to ensure that what is legal in states like Colorado is legal at the federal level, as well.”Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug — along with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy — under the Controlled Substances Act. This week, 18 members of Congress, in a joint letter to President Obama, asked him to instruct Mr. Holder to remove marijuana from any of the drug schedules or to reschedule it to a lower category.“Classifying marijuana as Schedule 1 at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system,” the lawmakers, led by Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, said in the letter. “Schedule 1 recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana.”Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Serge F, KovaleskiPublished: February 14, 2014Copyright: 2014 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by Swazi-X on February 15, 2014 at 14:33:26 PT
Smart Bankers
Of course the banks say this isn't enough - they remember the lies the Obama administration told about cannabis and how virtually nothing changed once he was in office. Raids on dispensaries got worse - the exact opposite of Obama's claim that "going after state-legal cannabis entities is not a good use of federal resources". These guys are business - they know a lie when they hear it, especially from someone who's done that before on the same subject. This proclamation from the Treasury Dept. is worthless until it's backed up by a change in law designed specifically to remove the discretionary aspect of this sort of prosecution. The feds can still ruin a business (bank, dispensary) legally if they choose to. They're trying to tell us they're just not going to choose to prosecute. Of course nobody's going to believe them.The way it goes if you remember, is to soothe the cannabis industry into believing everything's ok, then they storm in and pick off the "low fruit" of people who actually believed the administration's lies. It's an old fashioned bait-and-switch routine - a very well known ploy amongst liars thieves and other lowlifes. No wonder the banking industry immediately recognizes it - they've used the same tactic.
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