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Feds Set To Legalize Banking Transactions For Legitimate Marijuana Businesses

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A Justice Department official says the federal government will enable financial institutions to transact business with the legitimate marijuana industry without fear of prosecution. (Credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP / Getty Images)

A Justice Department official says the federal government will enable financial institutions to transact business with the legitimate marijuana industry without fear of prosecution. (Credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP / Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Justice Department official says the federal government will enable financial institutions to transact business with the legitimate marijuana industry without fear of prosecution.

The issue has taken on greater urgency now that Colorado and Washington have become the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.

In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the issue was one that the federal government needed to deal with.

The Justice Department announced Aug. 29 that it won’t try to stop Colorado and Washington state from legalizing recreational marijuana use as long as they implement strong enforcement systems. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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