Anti-money laundering officers and a top official with a federal banking regulator on Monday called on the U.S. Treasury and Justice departments to clarify for banks whether they can provide services to marijuana businesses.
These calls to action, which were offered during a discussion panel at an anti-money laundering conference in the U.S. capital were prompted by the ballot measures that last week made Colorado and Washington state the first states to permit recreational marijuana sale and use.
Medical-marijuana laws, which have existed in some states for more than a decade, were also cited by the panelists. While California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, today, 18 states and the District of Columbia have such laws on their books. The medical marijuana industry was worth $1.7 billion in 2011 and growing, according to a study by financial-analysis firm See Change Strategy.
Federal law bans marijuana distribution altogether, however, creating a conundrum
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