Official: ‘Careful’ IL Banks Can Work With Cannabis Companies

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Illinois financial institutions interested in working with the state’s upcoming medical marijuana industry have received a tentative green light from a federal official.

Zach Fardon, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said at a public breakfast meeting on Wednesday that banks won’t be targeted for prosecution even if they accept deposits from cannabis growers as long as they’re “careful” and abide by state laws.

“So long as they follow these laws that are in place, I don’t expect they will come on our radar for prosecution,” Fardon told a group of businesspeople at the Union League Club in Chicago.

That stance mirrors guidelines issued by the federal government last year in the 2013 Cole Memo, which directs prosecutors to focus on eight priority enforcement areas but avoid targeting businesses that are adhering to strict state regulations on the marijuana industry .

Fardon didn’t exactly offer solid reassurance, however.

The Chicago Sun-Times noted that Fardon “visibly squirmed in his chair” when pressed on whether banks have full legal permission to deal with cannabis companies. Fardon replied that banks have “legitimate concerns,” but said they should be able to avoid legal trouble if they are “transparent.”