Senators ask Treasury to help ease MJ industry’s banking issues

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A group of 10 U.S. senators is urging the Treasury Department to take steps to prevent the shutdown of plant-touching and ancillary businesses’ bank accounts.

The senators – seven Democrats, one Republican and two independents – placed special emphasis on ancillary businesses that have lost bank accounts because they worked with marijuana businesses. The senators cited lawyers, chemists and security personnel as examples.

Their appeal comes as many marijuana industry officials fret over whether the incoming Trump administration will crack down on legal MJ businesses.

In a letter to Jamal El-Hindi, acting head of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the senators urged “further guidance to financial institutions on their ability to provide services, specifically to indirect businesses that do nothing more than provide services to the state-sanctioned marijuana industry.”

In 2014, FinCEN issued guidelines essentially saying that banks could handle accounts from state-licensed marijuana businesses as long as those banks could ensure the marijuana businesses would comply with certain parameters, such as keeping product off the black market and not selling to youngsters.

But because the 2014 FinCEN memo was a policy change, not a change in law, most banks remain too scared to accept the business of state-licensed marijuana companies.

“With tens of millions of Americans soon gaining legal access to marijuana under state laws, new guidance is necessary in order to allow banks to enhance the availability of financial services for indirect businesses that service the marijuana industry,” the senators said.