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Alaska, Hawaii attorneys general seek pot business banking

January 18, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska and Hawaii attorneys general asked Congress to change laws so marijuana businesses can start using banks.

Alaska’s Jahna Lindemuth and Hawaii’s Doug Chin were among 19 attorneys general who urged U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday to move forward with legislation that would allow the marijuana businesses to stop working as cash only operations.

Chin said banks and other institutions are hindered by U.S. law from working with marijuana businesses. This creates a cash-only, “grey market” that hurts law enforcement and tax collections, he said.

The proposed legislation would provide a safe harbor for banks and other institutions that work with the marijuana industry. The officials said their legislation would protect public safety and result in billions of dollars being infused into the banking industry.

“Allowing banks to work with these businesses is good policy, which is why the concept has bipartisan support,” Lindemuth said.

The officials said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy change earlier this month intensified the need for national legislation that clarifies how marijuana should be regulated and policed.

Sessions rescinded the 2013 Cole Memo, which deferred to states on enforcing marijuana laws.

“Despite the contradictions between federal and state law, the marijuana industry continues to grow rapidly,” the letter from the state attorneys general said. “Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states, with state input, while protecting the interests of the federal government.”

The letter was sponsored by Hawaii, Alaska, District of Columbia and North Dakota. It was signed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington state.

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