Medical marijuana activists demonstrate in front of a US Bank branch during a march in downtown Denver to protest banks closing the accounts of local medical marijuana dispensaries on Aug 4, 2010.

Retail marijuana: U.S. Treasury may give “yellow light” to banks

The U.S. Treasury department is expected to issue guidance in the first quarter of 2014 giving banks a “yellow light” to work with marijuana businesses, a high-ranking state official said Thursday.

Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, said state officials have been told to expect guidance similar to that of a Department of Justice memo issued in August.

That document gave Colorado and Washington a rulebook to follow to avoid federal intervention as both states enforce voter-approved laws legalizing pot use for adults.

Finlaw said it’s anticipated the new guidance “will give maybe not a green light but a yellow light” for banks to work with marijuana businesses, including setting up accounts, making small business loans and allowing for purchases to be accepted through debit and credit cards.

He said the Treasury department also is concerned with adequate oversight to guard against providing banking services to businesses that are fronts for illegal activity or involved with drug cartels.

Of the anticipated guidance, Finlaw said: “That is probably the best we can expect in the near term, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Marijuana business owners have long pressed for changes that will allow them to bank, citing safety and other concerns.

Finlaw made the comments during a teleconference organized by the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.

Eric Gorski: 303-954-1971, or

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