Treasury Department Asked to Bank on Pot Clubs

Bank of America, Wells Fargo dare not allow marijuana dispensaries to open accounts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Wells Fargo has been turning away customers, at least customers who run medical marijuana dispensaries.

    You wouldn't think banks would be turning away business these days, but that's just what San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is doing to medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

    That's because the national banks worry about breaking federal money-laundering laws, since the national ban on cannabis overrules state efforts at legitimization.

    So Jared Polis, D-Colorado, has penned a letter with the support of 14 other representatives -- including Republicans like California's Dana Rohrbacher -- asking the Treasury Department to issue guidelines on dealing with locally legal if still nationally illegal marijuana businesses.

    The letter suggests that by being unbanked, the cash-only trade attracts crime and makes it difficult for revenue collectors to assess taxes.

    Wells Fargo still does business with some dispensaries, but is not opening new accounts.

    The repeal of the federal law that makes marijuana possession a crime has made for some strange bedfellows, with Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank and Texas Republican Ron Paul co-sponsoring a bill to have that law repealed.

    Of course, the loss of national banks could be a gain by local banks and credit unions, which have less to worry about in terms of federal laws regarding interstate commerce.

    Jackson West feels alternatives to big, national banks are hot right now.