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38 Attorneys General Call For Marijuana Banking Reform, Florida's AG Absent

A marijuana plant
Dan Balilty

Thirty-eight attorneys general signed a letter this week urging Congress to bring marijuana money into the federal banking system. But Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s signature was notably absent.

Thirty three states a have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, in addition to several US territories. But marijuana is still illegal under federal law so most banks are reluctant to take the risk. That means weed businesses are forced to deal in cash.

Moody's office said it is "is currently reviewing the legal implications of this request.”

For many banks, under the current there’s just too much at stake said Anthony DiMarco, executive vice president of government affairs for the Florida Bankers Association.

“If I was a banker, and I owned a bank or was the president of a bank, I would not be involved in this," DiMarco told WFSU News in September. "Just because of there’s so much potential liability – legal liability and just the cost of compliance – that it wouldn’t be worth my time.”

The attorneys general are calling on Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, or similar legislation. It would allow legitimate cannabis businesses to safely use the banking system.

"Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states and territories, with state and territorial input, while protecting the interests of the federal government," the letter reads. “An effective safe harbor would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector.”

Jimmy Patronis, the state's chief financial officer, and Nikki Fried, commissioner of agriculture, have both thrown their support behind the measure. 

“This definitely is a federal issue and hopefully, [Holly Bell, state cannabis director,] and myself will spend some time in D.C. lobbying on it," Fried told WLRN's Sundial. "But also, we have our state-chartered banks. So there is opportunity here in our state."

Jeffrey Sharkey of the Florida Medical Marijuana Business Association said all of Florida’s cabinet members have been working with marijuana businesses to find solutions, including Moody.

“It is unfortunate that businesses operating legally in Florida are unable to open bank accounts and are being forced to rely only on cash transactions,” said Lauren Schenone, Moody's spokeswoman.