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Feds Seek To Legalize Marijuana Industry Banking

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(stock photo / Getty Images)

(stock photo / Getty Images)

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(CBS Seattle) — The Justice Department will work to make it possible for financial institutions to do business with the legitimate marijuana industry, the deputy attorney general told Congress Tuesday.

Federally insured banks often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts because they risk drug racketeering and money laundering charges if they process money from marijuana sales since pot is still an illegal drug under federal law.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart testified at the hearing, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that forcing businesses to deal only in cash makes those businesses targets for robberies, according to the Bellingham Herald. The Washington Liquor Control Board recently proposed a maximum of 334 recreational pot store in the state; as many as 61 of those would be in Urquhart’s jurisdiction. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said state-licensed pot businesses should also be able to use armored vehicles to transport their money, the Herald reported.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the committee the absence of banking services is one that “we need to deal with” and that “we’re working on it.” Cole also told the committee federal regulators are working to find the best solution possible, but “there are no perfect solutions here.”

Tuesday’s hearing was the first since the Justice Department announced it would not try to stop Washington and Colorado from legalizing marijuana as they implement strong enforcement systems.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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