WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday gave banks a road map for doing business with legal marijuana sellers without getting into trouble, a major step by the federal government toward enabling a legalized marijuana industry to operate in states that approve it.
The guidance issued by the Justice Department and Treasury Department was intended to make banks feel more comfortable working with legal marijuana businesses that are licensed and regulated, while preserving the government’s enforcement power.
Others have a keen interest, too, in a regulated financial pipeline for an industry that is just emerging from the underground. Marijuana businesses that can’t use banks may have too much cash they can’t safely put away, leaving them vulnerable to criminals. And governments that allow marijuana sales want a channel to receive taxes.
A leading financial services trade group immediately expressed misgivings, however.
Washington and Colorado in 2012 became the first states to approve recreational use of marijuana. A group is hoping to make Alaska the third state in the nation to do so.
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