Sources in Congress Say U.S. Justice Department Blindsided Banking Agency on Marijuana Policy Flip

Sources in Congress Say U.S. Justice Department Blindsided Banking Agency on Marijuana Policy Flip

The DOJ failed to notify federal officials who advise banks in states where the drug is legal.

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January 11, 2018
Reuters
Business and finance Legislation and regulation News Politics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When the U.S. Justice Department said last week it was reversing policy on the $7 billion marijuana business, it failed to first notify federal officials who advise banks in states where the drug is legal, sources in Congress said.

The announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime critic of legalizing marijuana, caused confusion among banks about how to do business with marijuana growers, processors and distributors without running afoul of federal money laundering laws.

The uncertainty unleashed a flood of phone calls to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), an office within the U.S. Treasury Department, from congressional offices with questions from lawmakers and constituents.

But FinCEN had no ready answers because it received no advance warning of Sessions’ Jan. 4 announcement rescinding an Obama-era policy that had eased up on federal enforcement of marijuana laws, said congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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