Fed guidance no cure-all for pot account ills

by. Missy Baxter

When the federal government issued guidance regarding banking regulations for legal marijuana businesses on Feb. 14, the news was initially hailed as a historic moment for pro pot supporters.

But the buzz on the streets changed after closer scrutiny of the new guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement network and an accompanying Feb. 14 Department of Justice memo.

The documents lay out additional policing responsibilities beyond those typically imposed by the Bank Secrecy Act and warn that financial institutions – and marijuana merchants – could be prosecuted if they don’t adhere to the eight federal priorities laid out in 2013 memo by Department of Justice.

“This is a unique and complex issue, and only legislative change can fully and completely address it,” FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery told attendees Feb. 20 at the Florida International Bankers Association Anti-Money Laundering Conference in Miami. “We believe that FinCEN’s approach best balances the multiple competing interests currently at play.”

With 21 states and the District of Columbia now allowing some form of legal marijuana use, the Washington-based National Cannabis Industry Association predicts legal marijuana sales will top $2.5 billion this year.

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