Despite a growing acceptance of marijuana in states across the U.S., pot remains illegal under federal law. And until now, few banks have been willing to work with the medical marijuana establishments currently legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Banks “are afraid of losing the FDIC protection and insurance on all of their funding,” Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of the Denver Relief medical marijuana facility, told MSN moneyNOW last year. Banks that work with marijuana-related groups also face the threat of coming under federal drug racketeering charges.
But those restrictions may soon be changing. On Tuesday, U.S Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department and federal banking officials are reviewing plans that would allow financial institutions to open accounts and transact business with professionals in the legal marijuana industry.
According to Reuters, Cole told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that not allowing marijuana businesses access to banks forced those businesses to deal mostly in cash, which opens them up to robbery, fraud or money-laundering.