Feds Offer Slim Hope to Banks That Serve Marijuana-Related Businesses



It's not a lot on which to rely, but a new U.S. Justice Department memo offers a bit of hope—perhaps vain hope—that the federal government is backing off the threat of instant doom for any financial institution that offers services to marijuana related businesses. In a missive dated today, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole writes that prosecution may not be appropriate "if a financial institution or individual offers services to a marijuana-related business whose activities do not implicate any of the eight priority factors."

Those eight "priority factors" are:

  • Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels
  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity
  • Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use
  • Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands and
  • Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property

Is there any circumstance that doesn't implicate those factors in some way, depending on your interpretation?

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.

But the memo will probably get nice press coverage. So there's that.

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  1. Or maybe you see the slow but steady pace of drug law liberalization and realize, in horror, that once we achieve sanity in this policy area, there will be little reason for anyone to become a libertarian. “But rich people still pay taxes!” Not much of a bumper sticker.

    1. What if they have multiple sclerosis?

      1. Or if they’re hit by a bus and become pregnant?

    2. Liberalization is happening in SPITE of jug-ears.

    3. Since Democrats have bailed on any credible anti-war sentiments and both wings of TEAM AUTHORITAH continue the drive toward economic sclerosis, Libertarianism will remain relevant.

      Are you for real? Tired digs about stoner Libertarians that even the socons finally put to bed two elections ago? That ship sailed when the abuses became too public and too outrageous for John and Jane Q. Public to countenance. Now it’s a matter of reversing the bureaucratic inertia

      1. I agree – it actually takes what used to be a “scary Libertarian” position – legalize illegal drugs – and turns it into normality. Other Libertarian positions start to be less scary, and, as you say, both major parties are out of step with the American public in general regarding overseas adventurism and out of control spending.

    4. There is no other area in which the govt boot is stomping on your neck than drugs. No sir, it’s all Libertopia aka Somalia besides that one thing.

    5. So Tony, once the soccer moms understand that libertarians were right about marijuana, might they wonder what else libertarians are right about?

    6. Come on Tony. Do you really think libertarianism is a one issue movement? Why is it that it usually never comes up in my many conversations about the libertarianism.

      In your dreams, buddy. There are plenty of threats to freedom and use of force beyond drug policy.

      But it seems you are ready to admit it. Libertarians have been a positive influence on this issue.

  2. Banks would have to be insane to believe the administration on this. Just completely insane.

    1. If they don’t make the loans they’re baaaad people!

    2. This.

      Plus, the whole state-“legal”/federal-illegal thing is bullshit.

      1. Let me refer you to Art VI, cl. 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The Supremacy Clause is not a free pass, but the Commerce Clause is all-but a free pass and the Nazgul have defended the Controlled Substances Act as a legitimate exercise of Article I, Section 8 power.

  3. Any other office slackers getting blocked banner ads pasted over the left edge of the site, obscuring articles? It’s a recent development and really quite obnoxious. Sometimes I’m lucky and it doesn’t load, but mostly I’ve been pasting the text in Word to read it.

    1. Do the ads have a small banner saying “ads not by this site” by it. If so, try this.

      Sounds like you’ve downloaded some adware. The one I had was a tenacious fucker.

      1. I’ll check that out when I’m back Tuesday. Till then it’s a long weekend of springtimey weather, intermittent studying, and mostly slacking off.

        1. springtimey weather

          Fuck. You.

    2. It’s been happening to me, too. I just hit refresh and it usually loads again without the blocked ad.

  4. The legalization of marijuana (like heroin and cocaine) will NOT prevent that product from remaining under the control of criminal elements. Anyone who believes otherwise is living in a dream world.

    1. Like the dream world you live in, moron? How much Thorazine do they give you each day anyway? It must be a lot.

      1. Episiarch

        I have something you can eat F–KWIT. Stick your finger up your rectum and lick it dry. You have a nice evening Ass chunk.

        1. I did that, then I fed it to your mom. She loves it. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Also, she told me to tell you she won’t be home tonight so she can’t let you out of the basement so you’ll just have to shit in the corner again. Have fun; I know I will!

        2. Good thing you self-censored “fuck” or people’d think you’ve got no class.

          1. In addition to no brains.

    2. What you say makes no sense. Right on the face of it.

    3. The legalization of marijuana alcohol (like heroin and cocaine) will NOT prevent that product from remaining under the control of criminal elements. Anyone who believes otherwise is living in a dream world.

      How did that turn out again? Last time I checked, Budweiser wasn’t considered a criminal organization (although, given what they do to beer, perhaps they should be).

      And what exactly makes you think that a similar transition won’t happen with “hard” drugs?

      1. And YOUR point is?

        1. I think the point was that your reasoning is flawed and that anyone who believes as you do must be living in a dream world.

        2. Are you retarded? Serious question, here. Just know that I don’t have any cake.

          It’s pretty fucking simple really: Alcohol production during prohibition was controlled by the mob (a criminal enterprise). After prohibition ended, legitimate companies began making alcohol again and the mob got out of the business because it was no longer profitable. What in the fucking fuck makes you think the same thing won’t happen with hard drugs?

          Besides you being a drooling moron, of course.

          1. Yeah, the low price that merck could acetylate bulk morphine or extract cocaine along with their established sales force and distribution network would put any illicit outfit out of business the instant legalization happened.

            And also, don’t lock eyes with ‘im.

    4. Why won’t it?

      Please, explain how they’re going to compete with legal channels?

      (Do we have criminal elements controlling liquor distribution and sales, nationwide?

      We did under Porhibition.

      We don’t now, and they stopped pretty much immediately on Repeal.)

      Also, you might want to look at the nations where full or partial legalization has actually happened … and show us the criminals running things there.

      (I’ll grant you that if heroin was made legal tomorrow, production would remain under the thumb of criminals, until the rest of the world caught up or a US supply chain could be made.

      But we already grow most of our own pot already…)

      1. I assume he means that the taxes/regulations under “legal” marijuana will be so onerous it will fail to replace the already well-established black market.

        I’m in a state where it’s completely illegal but get good indoors delivered for $10 gram, and even cheaper at the half oz/oz price point. I find it hard to believe that the greedy politicians will allow a market to develop that can beat that.

        1. It’s already above board in CA and not run by criminals. So there is that.

    5. Sort of like alcohol, amirite?

    6. Ummm, if it’s legal they won’t be criminals anymore. Problem solved.

  5. #SlatePitch is officially broken: ‘I Love You Big Government, Will you Be My Valentine?

    But, gosh, Big Government, one of the things I so love about you is your generosity?not to welfare queens but to free enterprise itself. On top of the bridges and that other infrastructure you built, the stable society you have sustained through your do-gooder entitlement largesse offers business a dependable, educated workforce and vast affluent consumer base more or less entirely unwiped-out by famine, epidemic, civil strife, or grinding poverty.

    Theft is good.

    At business school nobody calls debt a noose. They call it a lever. That’s why corporations indebt themselves to the tune of trillions of dollars. Gee, Unc, you don’t hear Grover Norquist badmouthing bonds.

    Yet he blackmails legislators into signing an anti-tax pledge. Why? Compared to the rest of the industrialized world, you tax us so little. In terms of individual tax rates, you are in the middle of the pack. As a percentage of GDP, at 27.3 percent you are near the bottom, 29 spots below Denmark (48 percent), one above Turkey. In a month or two, I’m going to file my tax return, SWAK.

    Think of my check this way: sweets for my sweet. Big Government, be mine.

    That’s like praising your spouse for not beating you as much as the guy next door. Good luck reading it.

      1. Good. Don’t give the fuckers the clicks they desire.

    1. Updated Hayek:

      The increasing veneration for the state, the admiration of power, and of bigness for bigness’ sake, the enthusiasm for “organization” of everything (we now call it “planning”) and that “inability to leave anything to the simple power of organic growth”…are all scarcely less marked in England America now than they were in Germany (during the 30s)


  6. Come now. Not an informed reader here expects anything from the federal government. There job is always to make things more difficult. Not be an aid to making anything easy.

    What this article does reinforce is that more states need to legalize Marijuana and remove the government involvement completely from being involved.

    Taking any opportunities for involvement by the federal government is the only sure way to prevent problems from occurring. As we have seen with everything government run. They present more problems than solutions.

  7. It’s a recent development and really quite obnoxious.

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