<p>Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240</p>
While speaking yesterday at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration will soon announce policy guidance that would make it easier for banks to deal with state-legalized marijuana businesses. 20 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use; two of those states (Colorado and Washington) recently legalized marijuana like alcohol. Many banks have been afraid to open checking or savings accounts for legalized marijuana businesses out of fear of breaking federal law. As a result these businesses are forced to deal with large amounts of cash, creating public safety risks for employees, bystanders, and police officers.
"You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash—substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective."
Holder’s remarks comes on the heels of guidance issued in August by the Justice Department that indicated the Obama Administration will not undermine state marijuana legalization provided states are responsibly regulating marijuana businesses. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, President Obama said marijuana is less harmful to people who use it than alcohol, the war on marijuana is creating unjust racial disparities, and it is important for state legalization to move forward “because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance:
“This is yet another indication that the Obama administration really is trying to act in good faith with respect to Colorado and Washington’s efforts to regulate marijuana in a responsible way,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I have to say I’m impressed by how the White House is trying to make this work, especially given the inability of Congress to do anything constructive in this area.”