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AG Coffman Calls Federal Banking Laws ‘Outdated,’ Requests Federal Marijuana Industry Protections

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Flickr Creative Commons
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman pictured here in a file photo from May 16, 2017. Coffman, in a statement issued this week, urged lawmakers to grant protections to banks offering their services to the legal marijuana industry.

A group of 20 state attorneys general — including Colorado’s — injected their support this week into an effort to pass legislation allowing banks to serve legal marijuana businesses without fear of federal retaliation.

On Jan. 16, 19 Republican and Democratic state attorneys general signed a letter to congressional leaders outlining their support of the SAFE Banking Act. The legislation was introduced by Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the House last year to provide a “safe harbor” for banks who want to work with dispensary owners or other industry-related businesses.

“This would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector,” the letter says. “And give law enforcement the ability to monitor these transactions.”

Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills joined the group on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a separate statement that federal laws prohibiting the sale and use of recreational marijuana have forced the multibillion dollar legal marijuana industry to operate in the “financial shadows.”

“Opening a bank account is often one of the first steps a new business takes,” she said. “I urge Congress to take the necessary action to bring that commerce into the banking system, which will address certain public safety concerns, and allow law enforcement, regulators and taxing authorities to better monitor these businesses.”

Colorado’s own industry sales topped $1 billion last year. Most businesses operate on a cash-only basis, according to Coffman’s office.

The effort to ramp up support for the SAFE Banking Act comes two weeks after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to undo Obama-era marijuana policies that called for a “hands-off” approach to enforcement by federal authorities.

As of Wednesday, the bill had 64 co-sponsors in the House.