OLYMPIA -- Governors of the two states that legalized marijuana last year are asking federal regulators to find a way that businesses licensed to raise and sell the drug can use banks.
Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and John Hickenlooper of Colorado sent a letter to the heads of the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve Board, the Comptroller of the Currency and other key banking regulators, asking them to come up with guidance to allow the fledgling businesses to establish accounts.
Federal banking regulations currently forbid banks from accepting money from illegal drug transactions, and the federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, even though voters in the two states have passed laws making it legal for recreational use by adults.
Without bank accounts, businesses that are licensed by the state to grow, process or sell recreational marijuana will have to deal in cash, which creates "an unnecessary inviting target for criminal activity," the governors say in their letter. It also makes it more difficult to track the flow of money and prevent diversion of some proceeds into illegal activities, they added.
Washington voters last November approved Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by adults in private, but the state Liquor Control Board is still developing rules for the businesses to operate. The board is expected to begin accepting applications for recreational marijuana businesses in November, with licenses awarded early next year and stores open by June.