Attorney General Eric Holder just announced that the Justice Department will make provisions to allow banks to do business with marijuana shops.
Owners of pot shops in Colorado are wary of robbery, as current federal policy forces them to keep large amounts of cash in-house. As federal law is written now, lenders can’t work with illegal businesses—including marijuana, which is still against the law at the federal level.
That means that any federally insured bank is at risk of being charged with racketeering or money laundering if it deals with a marijuana vendor, prohibiting Colorado residents from swiping their debit or credit cards to buy the state’s new favorite green.
At a visit to the Miller Center at the University of Virginia Thursday, Holder announced a reversal in U.S. federal policy. He said the Obama administration will write new regulations to allow banks to do business with those vendors—legitimately.
"You don't want just huge amounts of cash in these places," Holder told the audience at the University of Virginia. "They want to be able to use the banking system. And so we will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue."
While Holder pointed to the “public safety” and “law enforcement” concerns brought on by having large sums of cash lying around businesses, some marijuana opponents were miffed by the seeming federal support for state legalization.
"We are in the midst of creating a corporate, for-profit marijuana industry that has to rely on addiction for profit, and that's a much bigger issue than whether these stores take American Express," said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.