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Tim Evanson

Attorney generals from 17 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam have sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to “advance legislation that would allow states that have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system” following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to rescind the Cole Memo protections.

“Despite the contradictions between federal and state law, the marijuana industry continues to grow rapidly. Industry analysts report that sales grew by 30 [percent] to $6.7 billion in 2016 and expect those totals to exceed $20 billion by 2021. Yet those revenues often exist outside of the regular baking space. Businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis. The grey market makes it most difficult to track revenues for taxation purposes, contributed to a public safety threat as cash intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of large swaths of finances across the nation.” – Attorney Generals’ banking letter to Congress

Data from the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) show that, as of September 2017, more than 300 banks and nearly 100 credit unions were offering services to the federally-prohibited cannabis sector. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sessions did not inform the agency about the policy change; however, FinCEN spokesman Stephen Hudack has indicated that the agency’s 2014 guidance – which allows banks to deal with state-approved canna-businessesremains in place.

Signatories on the letter include attorney generals from Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Guam, and Washington D.C.

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