AK Attorney General asks Congress to open banking for pot businesses

Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth discusses a lawsuit the state filed in 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Alaska’s Attorney General has joined a bipartisan group calling on lawmakers to change federal banking rules over handling legal marijuana sales.

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Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and 18 other attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for legislation that would establish a “safe harbor” for the billions of dollars being generated from recreational and medical cannabis sales each year.

They ask that a financial institution be established in a state with legal marijuana in order to monitor compliance, simplify taxation and provide law enforcement a better vantage point to track industry finances. The letter also says the move could help bolster the banking sector by infusing huge sums of cash that are currently barred from deposit and circulation because of federal drug laws.

The signatories are from across the country but slant toward generally Democratic-leaning states.

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a policy switch to the Justice Department, scrapping the 2013 Cole Memo that deferred to states on enforcing marijuana laws. The 19 attorneys general say in their letter that change is hastening the need for national legislation clarifying how cannabis should be regulated and policed in states that have voted for legalization.