Senate panel would allow legal marijuana vendors to do business with banks despite federal law

A Senate panel has voted to make it easier for businesses that legally produce and sell marijuana to do business with banks and other financial services providers.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would effectively ease laws making it officially illegal for banks to handle money from marijuana vendors. The laws have resulted in a situation in which marijuana vendors have typically had to use cash to conduct their business.

The Treasury and Justice departments have issued guidance intended to address the situation even as the law remains unchanged, but many banks remain skittish about doing business with marijuana-related companies. Four states allow sales of marijuana for recreational use, and 24 permit medicinal marijuana.

The legislation was added to a Treasury funding measure by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley.