by: Graham Johnson Updated:
The feds say they're working on a way for banks to hold accounts for marijuana businesses, which are now targets for crime because many only use cash. At a congressional hearing on new laws allowing recreational sales of pot in Washington and Colorado, a top Justice Department official said there are now talks underway with banking regulators. Most medical marijuana businesses are cash-only because processing money from cannabis sales would put federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart made this plea: "I am simply asking the federal government to let banks work with legitimate marijuana businesses."
At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General James Cole acknowledged that cash-only businesses are targets for crime. "Obviously there is a public safety concern when businesses have a lot of cash sitting around," Cole said.
Committee Chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont alleged Drug Enforcement Administration agents are telling armored car companies not to work with marijuana businesses. Leahy called it "a significant step away from reality" and said it's "almost as if they're saying, 'yeah get out there and we can have some robberies." Cole replied that the DEA was asking questions of armored car companies at the time and agents are no longer asking those questions.