WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Justice Department official says the federal government will enable financial institutions to transact business with the legitimate marijuana industry without fear of prosecution.
The issue has taken on greater urgency now that Colorado and Washington have become the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.
"Cash only businesses are prime targets for armed robberies and cash only businesses are very difficult to audit leading to possible tax evasion, wage theft and diversion of the resources we need to protect public safety. I am simply asking the federal government to allow banks to work with legitimate marijuana businesses who are licensed under this new state law," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.
In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the issue was one that the federal government needed to deal with.
The Justice Department announced August 29th that it won't try to stop Colorado and Washington state from legalizing recreational marijuana use as long as they implement strong enforcement systems. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law.