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Marijuana Banking At “Top Of The List,” Treasury Secretary Says

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The Trump administration’s top fiscal official told Congress that figuring out marijuana businesses’ access to banks is at the “top of the list” of his department’s concerns.

“This is a complicated issue. We are actively looking at this,” Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. “We’re working on it as we speak.”

Mnuchin indicated during a separate House hearing last week that he wants cannabis businesses to be able to store their profits in banks.

“I assure you that we don’t want bags of cash,” he said at the time. “We do want to find a solution to make sure that businesses that have large access to cash have a way to get them into a depository institution for it to be safe.”

In 2014, under the Obama administration, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidance that has allowed banks to open accounts for marijuana growers, processors and retailers without running afoul of federal regulators.

But last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a broader policy from the former administration that had generally cleared the way for states to implement their own cannabis laws without Justice Department interference. Sessions’ move has led to fears that the Trump administration may tear up the banking memo as well.

On Thursday, Mnuchin was responding to a question from Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who said that marijuana businesses’s uncertain access to financial services is a “threat to public safety.”

Earlier this month, a top Treasury official wrote in a letter to lawmakers that the department is “consulting with law enforcement” about whether to maintain the Obama-era guidance for depository institutions.

And last month, a Mnuchin deputy testified at a Senate hearing that the banking document remains in effect while the administration weighs whether to revoke it.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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