Departments of Justice and Treasury Release Marijuana Banking Guidance

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director February 14, 2014

    Today, the Department of Justice and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network division of the Treasury Department released long anticipated guidance to banks and other financial institutions on how they can interact with marijuana businesses that are licensed under state law.

    Under current regulations, financial institutions are required to file suspicious activity reports when they suspect the transaction has a drug connection. The new guidance creates a three tiered system for these reports: marijuana limited, marijuana priority, and marijuana termination. This will allow these institutions to work with marijuana businesses as long as they were operating in accordance with state laws and regulations. The Department of Justice reserved the right to pursue criminal charges when they suspect businesses are breaking the guidelines they released late last year and would still require banks to report any activity they suspect to be as operating outside of state regulations.

    “Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” noted FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery in a press release. “Our guidance provides financial institutions with clarity on what they must do if they are going to provide financial services to marijuana businesses and what reporting will assist law enforcement.”

    “This reduces the burden on banks,” FinCEN stated during a briefing on the memo, “Marijuana under federal law requires a SAR. Now, the necessity is limited, reducing the banks’ burden a bit and more importantly clarifies where law enforcement focuses its attention.”

    While this is a good start when it comes to allowing marijuana businesses to operate the same as those in any other regulated industry, memos such as these can be ultimately overturned by future administrations. To make this change lasting and binding, Congress must now act to codify it into law. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act is currently pending before the House of Representatives and would do just that. You can click here to quickly and easily write your representative and urge him/her to support this important legislation.

    You can view the full text of the memo from FinCEN here. The DOJ memo can be viewed here.

    25 Responses to “Departments of Justice and Treasury Release Marijuana Banking Guidance”

    1. Dave says:

      I don’t appreciate being called a pothead today I don’t call people alcohol head because they drink alcohol that’s it

    2. Daniel Fain says:

      Its good news but we know that the truth always comes out after years of being harassed by the po po over minor possession of pot the prisons are so full they got a real problem Gee the people dont agree with the law because they know the truth maryjane is so fine and she makes me happy would be a shame to miss a good thing like maryjane

    3. Evening Bud says:

      @ Ray Walker Jr.,

      The banks are definitely dragging their feet. I can’t believe that greed won’t ultimately change their positions, however. Banks thrive on profit margins, and the reports coming out of Colorado show that there’s plenty of money to be had.

      I appreciate your acknowledging the “baby-steps.” I have a tendency myself to celebrate almost any good news, without, admittedly, always looking at the fine print. Still, I am overjoyed that things are generally proceeding in a positive manner, the bummer news coming out of California just yesterday notwithstanding.

      In the end, as you say, we are all brothers and sisters for the cause. Here’s hoping the banks will start playing ball, and that Obama or congress will pull their heads out and reclassify pot.

    4. Denny Strausser Jr says:

      Until they reschedule marijuana, problems will arise eventually. They’ll decide to go after the banks, or something, in stated where it’s been made legal. They’ll probably also go after businesses because of improper filing of taxes. And also, for violating Federal Law. Sure they may have said they wouldn’t do this. But. It doesn’t stop them from going after laundered money makers.
      What ever the reason they use, they’ll try to get people for selling it in the two states they legalized it in. Maybe not arresting them directly for marijuana, going for other reasons.

      My point is already clear as day.
      They really need to reschedule marijuana on a federal level here. Leave States fully allowed to enforce their own laws on it… even if that means legalizing it.
      And actually, that might help states want to legalize then.

    5. Ray Walker Jr. says:

      @Evening Bud
      Yes, you are right that I should celebrate the baby steps more than I do. Point taken.

      And yes I do think the banks should be made to respect any business without prejudice, but I think whats going on is that they’re not being forced to do anything. It looks like that they’re lobbying for a “get out of jail free” card, or a “get out of litigation free” card when the Feds or a change in election cycles bring old viewpoints back to power and the raids start back up.

      On the issue of the banks fighting in the Supreme Court, the banks will never have to go that far to get what they want, they never have. They’ll find a way through their lobby mechanisms(if thats what you’re asking).

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