A little less than a month ago, news broke that the federal government may be willing to start backing down on the restrictions that are currently imposed on banks, which are preventing marijuana dispensaries from using any currency, for the most part, besides cash. Today, an update made its way down the pipeline, and it looks like it’s going to be good news for dispensary owners that are looking for a safer way to handle their business.
In short, banks have been unwilling to meddle in the business of the cannabis industry. The reason is simple: because marijuana is still federally illegal, banks fear prosecution from the Powers that Be for racketeering and other potentially damaging punishments. Because of this, dispensaries have been either doing their business (inclusive of paying taxes and distributing payroll) with the green paper that we all know and love so much. One main problem, clearly, is a matter of safety. Anyone that’s toting tons of cash around any town, no matter how congenial the residents, is asking for trouble.
According to a press release from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is a branch of the US Treasury Department, "the guidance provides that financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses in a manner consistent with their obligations to know their customers and to report possible criminal activity." In summary, banks will now be safe to work with marijuana companies for so long as they monitor the businesses to ensure that they are properly licensed per each state’s standards and to monitor and report suspicious activity.
Dispensary owners shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. According to the president and CEO of the Colorado Banker’s Association, as reported by 9News.com, "In fact, it is even stronger than original guidance issued by the Department of Justice and the Treasury. After a series of red lights, we expected this guidance to be a yellow one. This isn't close to that. At best, this amounts to 'serve these customers at your own risk' and it emphasizes all of the risks. This light is red."