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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

State Regulator: Pot Banking Guidance Should Solve 'Bags Of Money' Issue

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

Marijuana businesses in Washington may soon be able to open a bank account. 

The Obama administration issued new guidance to banks on Friday regarding drug proceeds.

The three-page Department of Justice memo signals that banks that do business with licensed, above-board marijuana businesses likely won’t face prosecution.

Rick Garza, director of Washington’s Liquor Control Board, welcomes the news.

“You can’t have people walking around with bags of cash trying to find someone who will take it as a deposit or trying to pay their taxes or fees," he says. "So this provides the services that all our licensees will need for financing.”

The question is how many banks will be willing to work with marijuana businesses without clear protection under the law. Garza says he’s confident that enough will to meet demand.

The Washington Bankers Association says the guidance is an “important first step” but the decision to open accounts for marijuana businesses will be made on a bank-by-bank basis.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."