Jordan Weissmann parses the government memo released Friday:
The new guidelines, released by the Justice and Treasury Departments, essentially give banks an assurance that, as long as they play by the right rules and file the right paperwork, they probably won’t be prosecuted for letting your local pot shop open a checking account. Emphasis on probably. … Without question, this does mark a huge step forward for the industry. But one has to wonder how many banks will be interested in creating a paper trail registering all of their marijuana-related dealings. The Justice Department’s memo doesn’t provide immunity from prosecution. That might be fine so long as marijuana-tolerant Democrats control federal law enforcement. But what happens the next time a Republican wins office?
Alex Altman is unsure much will change:
Despite the government’s attempt to help the market operate, it is not clear that the memos are a long-term solution to the cash dilemma. The banking lobby has said repeatedly that financial institutions will require greater certainty than the yellow light the government gave Friday to transact freely with cannabis companies. Robert Rowe, a lawyer for the American Bankers Association, told TIME last month that “it would take an act of Congress” for banks to assume the risk.
J.D. Tuccille’s two cents:
Jacob Sullum already predicted that this memo won’t be very reassuring to banks. This is, after all, the same administration that suggested it would “de-prioritize” marijuana prosecutions and then did nothing of the sort. Trusting their business, and freedom, to non-binding guidance from an administration has only grudgingly ceded any ground on the drug war may just be a step too far for bankers.