© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

With New Rules, Pot Business Gets A Little Less Hazy For Banks


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

The Treasury and Justice Departments today sought to clarify for banks how they might navigate the murky legal waters of the marijuana business. Murky because pot is legal in a growing number of states but remains illegal under federal law. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports on these new terms under which a bank must operate if it wants to offer financial services to this emerging industry.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: In the absence of specific federal guidance, most banks had kept marijuana businesses at arms' length, denying them loans, checking or savings accounts - which meant that, like the street-drug trade, many state-sanctioned pot-sellers were doing a cash-only business. Taylor West is deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. She calls the rules a victory for her group's members.

TAYLOR WEST: They've had to do things like payroll entirely in cash. It creates huge security issues for the businesses, for their employees, and then it also makes it more difficult for them to handle the transparent accounting that the industry is trying to put in as a standard.

NOGUCHI: A division within the Treasury Department issued the rules today. They expand on a Justice Department memo issued last year that outlined broad-brush priorities for federal prosecutors investigating marijuana trafficking. Today's new rules set forth a laundry list of requirements, including that banks very closely monitor the revenue, deposits, withdrawals, and the businesses' owners and employees. And the banks must file reports with regulators if the transactions don't add up or otherwise look suspicious. West says some banks will see the new rules as a positive development.

WEST: We don't expect every bank in the country to immediately sign on. But I think there are a lot of banks that see that this is an industry that's projected to be worth $2.5 billion in 2014.

NOGUCHI: But the American Bankers Association disagrees. It says the new guidelines don't change anything and that banks would still face the risk of prosecution for getting involved with the pot business. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Business Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, DC. Since joining NPR in 2008, she's covered a range of business and economic news, with a special focus on the workplace — anything that affects how and why we work. In recent years she has covered the rise of the contract workforce, the #MeToo movement, the Great Recession, and the subprime housing crisis. In 2011, she covered the earthquake and tsunami in her parents' native Japan. Her coverage of the impact of opioids on workers and their families won a 2019 Gracie Award and received First Place and Best In Show in the radio category from the National Headliner Awards. She also loves featuring offbeat topics, and has eaten insects in service of journalism.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.