Monday, December 16, 2013

Feds meet on marijuana money problems

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 10:48 AM

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The Seattle Times broke the news that a rare meeting of the federal Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group took place last week to discuss the well-known banking problems in the marijuana industry. 

The meeting itself will be closed to the press and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, said the spokesman.

But marijuana will be on the agenda, said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, in a speech last month to the American Bankers Association. Calvery said her regulators already had started conversations with the DOJ.

“Given the timing of the meeting it’s imperative we have a good outcome, said U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-WA, who has been pressuring the Treasury Department for a banking solution, along with Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-CO.

Though it's unknown what, if anything, will come out of it, the Times writes that there's hope that if legislative relief doesn't materialize, maybe banks will at least be given the message that it's OK to work with the marijuana companies, if for no other reason than crime loves cash.

“Without access to basic banking services, many legitimate cannabis businesses are forced to manage sales, payroll, and even tax bills entirely in cash," says Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, in a press release. "That puts their customers, employees, and fellow community members at completely unnecessary risk. Everyone agrees that the situation is untenable; the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice must act and act quickly.

"The tide of public opinion is turning ever more quickly in support of regulated marijuana markets and, in 2014, at least six states will be implementing new regulations for these markets. It is long past time for the federal government to stop putting citizens in harm’s way by denying legally recognized businesses access to secure banking services."

Michael Elliott, with the Denver-based Medical Marijuana Industry Group, echoed Smith's comments in his own statement.

"A lack of banking services creates major public safety and accountability problems. As the marijuana businesses begin catering to the full 21-and-up population in Colorado, these problems will be magnified. While we in Colorado will do everything we can to address this issue on a state and local level, this problem needs to be fixed at the federal level."

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