Bank Regulation

Treasury Sec. Says Pot Companies Should Be Banked  

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin appeared to support pot companies storing their money in banks, testifying that the Treasury doesn’t want the marijuana business to remain a cash-based one.

“I assure you that we don’t want bags of cash,” Mnuchin testified during an appearance before the House Financial Services Committee, according to Forbes. “We want to make sure that we can collect our necessary taxes and other things.”

According to the report, Mnuchin was answering questions from lawmakers who were worried about the public safety implications of banning banks from doing business with marijuana companies due to the fact that cannabis is illegal on the federal level. Mnuchin told lawmakers that the Treasury is looking at ways to deal with the issue.

In 2014, President Obama’s administration issued guidance that enables banks to let marijuana growers, processors and retailers open up bank accounts without getting in trouble with federal regulators. But with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions walking back a broader enforcement policy in states where pot is legal, there are heightened concerns that the Trump administration could also eliminate the banking guidance.

Last week, Forbes noted that a Treasury official communicated in a letter to lawmakers that it is in discussions with law enforcement about whether to keep the previous administration’s guidance or change it. During the Tuesday (Feb. 6) hearing, Mnuchin confirmed the Treasury is reviewing the existing guidance, but said he doesn’t want to get rid of it if there isn’t an alternative policy to address public safety concerns.

Citing the memo sent to U.S. attorneys on Thursday (Jan. 4), The Washington Post reported that Sessions undid several Obama administration memos that urged against pot prosecutions in states where it’s legal for both recreational and medical use. Sessions, who noted that it’s against federal law to possess or sell marijuana, said it is up to the prosecutors to pursue cases while taking into account the resources of the department, the seriousness of the crime and whether or not the action will serve as a deterrent.

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