When it comes to doing business with marijuana sellers, it's going to take a lot more than a thumbs-up from Attorney General Eric Holder to get paranoid bankers on board, Politico reports. Holder made waves last week when he said the Obama administration plans to give banks the go-ahead to make loans or open accounts for marijuana dispensaries in states where they're legal without running afoul of federal laws, which still consider cannabis an illegal substance. Bankers say it's not that simple. Financial firms must comply with a slew of anti-money-laundering rules enforced by bank regulators, and the risk of violations could be big for banks that choose to do business with companies that are breaking federal laws.
Also, the Justice Department directive wouldn't be binding, and there have been examples of prosecutors who disagree with similar guidance ignoring the directive. The next administration could also wipe it off the books. All it takes is one U.S. attorney to file criminal charges, and a bank could lose its charter and be forced to shut down. “From my conversations with bankers, I don't see that there's anything they can do that's going to give a bank the comfort they need until Congress changes the law,” said Rob Rowe of the American Bankers Association. Banks have faced a conundrum ever since states started loosening laws to allow the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and the issue has picked up as sellers in Colorado and Washington, which legalized all sales last year, look for safe places to park their proceeds.