Senators Urge Feds to Issue Clearer MJ Banking Guidelines

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A group of four U.S. Senators are urging federal regulators to come together to issue clearer guidance to financial institutions serving licensed marijuana businesses so they won’t have to operate in cash.

Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet wrote a letter to the six top federal financial regulators, asking that their agencies collaborate on an effort to improve the Feb. 14, 2014, guidelines issued by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

Banking officials have said the guidelines are cumbersome, unclear, and do not offer sufficient protection against federal action.

The letter cited a FinCEN provision requiring banks to file a “suspicious activity report” to regulators whenever they open a marijuana business account. Banks worry that when they file such reports, their supervisory ratings will be downgraded, the letter said.

“Without a joint guidance providing direction on how to operate from their prudential regulators, banks and credit unions will continue to lack the certainty they need to operate in this market,” the letter said.

It added, “With clearer guidance offered by all of their regulators, financial institutions will be more likely to serve these legal businesses and allow them to access our banking system without fearing repercussion.”