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Obama administration to set rules for banks to handle weed money

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Attorney General Eric Holder made an appearance at the University of Virginia's Miller Center yesterday to discuss such topics as prison reform, Edward Snowden, and the Obama administration's stance on marijuana. During the talk, Holder went on to state that the federal government is preparing "regulations" that will make it easier for banks to do business with legal pot sellers. The promised new rules may pave the way for future state initiatives on weed that mirror those in Colorado and Washington.

According to Holder, the Justice and Treasury Departments are collaborating on the regulations to ease the anxiety of banks unwilling to work with weed merchants for fear of being prosecuted. As a result, the money such businesses make would end up "lying around."

"You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places," said Holder. "They want to be able to use the banking system." While the rules are not tantamount to a blessing of pot, it's a pragmatic solution for businesses going forward. "It is an attempt to deal with a reality that exists in these states," he said.

"It is an attempt to deal with a reality that exists in these states."

A Justice Department official stated after the talk that these rules would not be enforceable in court, but are rather meant as guidance for prosecutors and federal law enforcement. However, that the administration is encouraging banks to do business with pot sellers indicates that, while marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, interest in prosecuting the sale of the drug may wane if banks start to see more profit from its sale. Indeed, the legalization measures taken in Washington in Colorado may already be starting a shift. Holder already promised not to challenge state laws on medicinal and recreational marijuana use last year. What's more, outgoing Texas governor Rick Perry yesterday expressed for the first time that he's for the decriminalization of pot, even though legalization still seems far off.