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Obama administration marijuana rules update: Feds won challenge pot laws

The latest news on the Obama administration marijuana rules signaled a victory for legal dealers. The move Friday by President Obama cleared the way for the banking and finance industries to do business with bona-fide marijuana dealers. Some say the new rules on marijuana moves closer to widespread recreational and medicinal use of pot, citing a Feb. 15 NewsOxy report and the Washington Post.

Denzil McLean (L) and Priscilla Nova attend a rally for Florida Attorney General candidate, Jim Lewis, who is running on a platform of legalizing marijuana
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Obama administrations new rules on pot simply mean the feds won't challenge or enforce the sale and use of marijuana in all states. Despite some 20 states -- including the District of Columbia -- having already approved recreational and medical marijuana use, federal laws created a quagmire for the businesses seeking to do commercial business.

Since the federal government controls the banking industry, before Friday's change in marijuana rules sentiment, banks were not allowed to open savings and checking accounts for dealers of pot. In turn, pot dispensaries were forced into dealing strictly with cash.

The Treasury Department stepped in and advocated for a relaxation of enforcement to prevent marijuana businesses from becoming targets for robbery and violent crimes.

A "change" in the rules means that banks must be vigilant in accurate record-keeping, must verify the marijuana business is properly licensed with the state and local governments, and must take inventory of the types of products and merchandise the business offers for sale.

Banks can accept funds from legal marijuana dealers...but will they?

The Obama administrations relaxation of marijuana rules, on the surface, appears to be a slam dunk for pot advocates to legalize weed. However, not everyone is convinced of this announcement because it lacks Congressional legitimacy.

This guidance is a set in the right direction, but it's not enough. We don't see that guidance as giving banks a full green light to bank these businesses. We feel the only real and lasting solution is an act of Congress," said Amanda Averch, director of communications at the Colorado Bankers Association.

In short, banks may still be reluctant to move full steam ahead because there's always a chance Congress will vote against any measure in place, causing a ripple in the banking and pot industry.

As one administration official said:

Every financial institution will have to make its own risk assessment and whether it makes businesses sense. While it may not reassure every bank, we're proving an opening for those who want to serve this sector."

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