Treasury official wants Congress to fix marijuana

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The Department of the Treasury’s comptroller says it’s time to open banking to the marijuana industry

Joseph Otting, the comptroller of the Department of the Treasury, is imploring the U.S. Congress to come up with a solution that will allow entities in the marijuana industry to have proper access to banking channels. Otting is hoping lawmakers can pull together and create legislation that will open financial institutions to the banking industry as soon as next year, if not sooner.

In speaking with reporters, Otting said that lawmakers “have to act at the national level to legalize marijuana if they want those entities involved in that business to utilize the U.S. banking system.” He added, “If I’m a betting person, I’m like 25-30 percent maybe next year, but I would hope by 2020 we can get this issue resolved.”

When trying to find a proper banking solution, businesses in the cannabis industry face a great deal of uncertainty. Many financial institutions won’t negotiate with the businesses over fears of being targeted due to federal restrictions.

Otting, who is also the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, says that the situation is “generally not healthy.” His opinion is similar to that of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, who has asserted that “it would be great if [the banking issue] could be clarified.”

Even Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury, holds a dim view of the situation. He recently said that the banking conflict is out of control and that the Treasury is currently “reviewing the existing guidance.” He added, “We do want to find a solution to make sure that businesses that have large access to cash have a way to get them into a depository institution for it to be safe.”