Gov. Hickenlooper says new guidelines don’t go far enough
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Federal officials took a small step toward giving state-authorized marijuana businesses some much-needed financial legitimacy, but the new guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t go far enough, according to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“Based on initial reactions in the banking community to the guidance that was issued today, it appears that the language does not provide the clarity that Colorado banks are seeking to provide basic banking services to the emerging marijuana industry,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.
“While we understand the federal government is in a difficult position, we also hope it realizes that compelling a new industry to conduct all their transactions in cash is an invitation to corruption and criminal activity. We hope that Congress will act to resolve the risk and liability that Colorado banks are being asked to accept,” he added.
According to the Denver Post, at least some Colorado banks will still be reluctant to treat marijuana business the same as any other business. But national advocates of the marijuana industry think the guidance makes it clear that the federal government is OK with banks doing business with legal marijuana shops and grow operations.
“Today’s announcement gives me confidence that the President is beginning to put in place policies that reflect his recent statement that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol,” said Rep. Jared Polis, a democratic Colorado congressman who has been pushing Congress to make fundamental changes to federal drug laws. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and with the Administration to ensure the law reflects scientific realities.”
Polis released the following statement in reaction to the new federal guidelines:
“I am thrilled that the Department of Justice has issued guidelines granting marijuana businesses access to federal banking institutions. I want to thank Attorney General Holder for working so quickly to get them released. These guidelines demonstrate that the Attorney General recognizes the importance of granting legal marijuana businesses access to banking services available to all other legal businesses. When a small business, such as a marijuana dispensary, can’t access basic banking services they either have to become cash-only—and become targets of crime—or they’ll end up out-of-business. In states that have legalized marijuana, and for businesses that have been state-approved, owners no longer have to fear the federal government will intrude and threaten banks that are involved in legal transactions.
“I hope that the guidelines released today provide enough clarity that some banks or credit unions feel comfortable doing business with legal marijuana businesses.
“While this is a huge step in the right direction, there is still much work to be done to ensure that legal marijuana businesses will not be prosecuted in the future. The only true way to protect these small business owners is to remove marijuana from the list of schedule 1 narcotics. The bi-partisan ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act,’ which I sponsored would lift the federal prohibition on marijuana, and allow states, counties, and cities to regulate or ban marijuana as their citizens desire.