By Benjamin Goad - 01/24/14 09:28 AM EST
The Justice Department is working on new regulations intended to give legal marijuana businesses access to banks currently prohibited from doing business with sellers of the drug, The New York Times reports.
The agency is not expected to toss out current regulations completely, but rather direct prosecutors not to prioritize cases involving legal pot shops that use banks, the newspaper reports.
“You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday in Virginia. “There’s a public safety component to this.”
As Colorado prepared last year for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, a state tax force appealed to the Justice Department to adjust federal banking and tax regulations, which stand as barriers to legal business operations.
“Since marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law, banks must either refuse to hold accounts for legal marijuana businesses in Colorado or risk prosecution,” the task force wrote.
The panel also asked the federal government to amend a portion of the federal tax code that, as currently written, would bar legal Colorado marijuana businesses from claiming deductions.
It is unclear exactly what the forthcoming regulations will say or how soon they would be issued.
“For the banking industry, the details of the guidelines will be crucial for deciding whether banks feel comfortable taking deposits, giving loans or issuing credit cards to legal marijuana businesses,” the NYT’s Jack Healy and Matt Apuzzo write. “Without specific guidelines, many banks might continue to refuse transactions with legal marijuana businesses.”
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