WASHINGTON – Four Democratic senators sent a letter on Thursday to federal financial regulators asking for clear guidance on how banks can serve the marijuana industry.

The senators expressed concerns that marijuana businesses that operate legally in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state are forced to run all-cash operations because banks are reluctant to offer services for fear that examiners might unfairly view their operations as high risk.

"Many marijuana-related businesses are experiencing difficulty accessing financial services and must operate all-cash operations," said the letter, sent by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patty Murray of Washington and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

The lawmakers said forcing the businesses to operate on an all-cash basis not only creates a public safety risks, but also makes it difficult for the states to collect tax revenue.

The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued guidance in February on how to file suspicious activity reports related to marijuana businesses.

However, the senators' letter said, "While the marijuana SARs reports are an option, most banks and credit unions have been reluctant to provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses due to concerns their CAMELS supervisory rating will be penalized from examiners."

"With clearer guidance offered by all of their regulators," they added, "financial institutions will be more likely to serve these legal businesses and allow them to access our banking system without fearing repercussion."

The letter was sent to the heads of the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Treasury, National Credit Union Administration and Fincen.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.