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Justice Dept. to adjust banking rules for legal marijuana shops

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DENVER — Colorado’s marijuana shops may not be cash-only businesses for much longer.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Obama administration is planning to roll out new regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers.

That’s currently a problem because federal banking laws prohibit lenders from working with illegal businesses and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder acknowledged the reality that Colorado businesses and politicians have been talking about for months — that marijuana businesses, without access to the banking system, are prime targets for violent crime because of the large amounts of cash they’re forced to carry around.

Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.

Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, urged the Justice Dept. to act back in July of last year when he brought forth legislation to exempt businesses in states where marijuana is now legal from the FDIC laws that prohibit banks from lending to them.

His bill never got a hearing.