U.S. to let banks do business with licensed pot shops: officials

Reuters
A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day in Northglenn, Colorado
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A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day in Northglenn, Colorado December 31, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will allow banks to do business with licensed marijuana companies with a reduced fear of criminal prosecution if the banks meet a series of conditions, a U.S. Justice Department official said on Friday.

The Justice and Treasury departments were preparing written guidance that would stop short of promising immunity for banks but make clear that prosecution for money-laundering and other crimes was unlikely if they cooperated with regulators, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the release of official memoranda.

The guidance was intended to increase the availability of banking services, such as savings and checking accounts, to marijuana shops that typically deal in cash, the official said.

Colorado last month became the first state to open retail outlets legally permitted to sell marijuana to adults for recreational purposes, in a system similar to what many states have long had in place for alcohol sales. Washington state is expected to follow Colorado's lead.

(This version of the story corrects the time reference in paragraph 4 to "last month" from "this month".)

(Reporting by David Ingram and Jason Lange; Editing by Howard Goller)

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