Banking Bigwig: “Yellow Light” Won’t Fix MMJ Industry’s Problems

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The much-anticipated “yellow light” that the banking industry is supposed to receive from the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice will not convince financial institutions to work with the cannabis industry, the head of Colorado’s largest banking association said.

Don Childears, CEO and president of the Colorado Bankers Association, said that nothing short of an act of Congress regarding cannabis would convince banks to do business with marijuana companies.

“Banks need permanence of law versus changeable guidance,” Childears wrote in an editorial for The Denver Post.

The statement is a blow to cannabis professionals who were hoping for some relief after U.S. attorney general Eric Holder’s statement in January that various departments were discussing ways to deal with the banking issue for legal cannabis businesses.

In a separate paper, Childears wrote that guidance “cannot change the fact that marijuana is against federal law. It cannot change water into wine.”

The issue, Childears said, is that regulators – not prosecutors – oversee banking institutions. Prosecutors can choose to look the other way when institutions violate federal law. But regulators have the power to impose civil money penalties, cease and desist orders, fines and professional bans on bankers who violate federal law.