Federal government gives banks medical marijuana guidance

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Updated: 2/14/2014 3:10 pm
WASHINGTON (AP, MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- The federal government is giving banks a roadmap for doing business with marijuana sellers. It's another step toward enabling a legalized marijuana industry to operate in the United States.

The new rules issued by the Obama administration are intended to ease the concerns of banks wanting to deal with businesses that legally sell marijuana, something the nation's banks have so far declined to do.

Because the federal government regulates banking transactions, marijuana dealers have been unable to get banks to do business with them. As a result, dealers operate strictly with cash, creating a tempting target for thieves. Treasury Department officials say the revised rules should reduce the dangers associated with conducting an all-cash business.

Under the new regulations, banks wishing to do business with marijuana dealers must verify that they are properly licensed and must gather information about the types of products they sell and the nature of the customers they serve. Banks must also be alert for any signs that the dealers are engaged in improper transactions.

Current rules require banks to notify federal regulators of suspicious activity by their customers, which currently would include any marijuana dealer because of the prohibitions under federal law. Under the new rules, the notices will still be required, but banks that believe a marijuana dealer is reputable will file a "marijuana limited" report.

The guidance comes one day after Nevada lawyers announced that they would not advise government entities on medicinal marijuana dispensaries until ethical issues were cleared. Lawyers would be in danger of losing their licenses if advice is given regarding a federal crime.

Washington and Colorado became the first states in the nation to approve recreational use of marijuana. A citizens' group is hoping to make Alaska the third state to do so.
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