Feds Want Banks to Spy on Pot Shop Customers

Eric Blair

Today the Obama Administration issued guidance for banks to work with legal marijuana businesses now scattered across 20 states but stuck in a primarily cash business.

According to USA Today, the new guidelines “advises banks that they likely could avoid federal law enforcement scrutiny if they abided by eight conditions, including avoiding dealers that distributed marijuana to minors and those that directed revenue from marijuana sales to gangs and cartels.”

Feds Want Banks to Spy on Pot Shop Customers

Based on these early descriptions, it seems as though banks will be required to gather information on marijuana shop customers. Apparently this is to prevent selling to minors.

According to CNBC:

Under the new regulations, banks wishing to do business with marijuana dealers must verify that they are properly licensed and must gather information about the types of products they sell and the nature of the customers they serve. Banks must also be alert for any signs that the dealers are engaged in improper transactions.

The LA Times stated that the Department of Justice’s main concern was to make sure marijuana shops don’t serve minors and that legal weed doesn’t cross state borders:

A memo issued Friday by Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to all federal prosecutors said that prosecution may not be appropriate for banks dealing with marijuana sellers if they are operating legally in their states and stay away from red zones, such as the sale of the drug to minors or across state lines.

Allison Price, Department of Justice spokeswoman, said, “These guidelines, together with the Treasury Department’s guidance to financial institutions, are intended to increase the availability of financial services for marijuana businesses—that are licensed and regulated — while at the same time preserving and enhancing important law enforcement tools.”

All eight of the aforementioned “conditions” the banks must obey have not been made public as of yet, but some appear to be the following:
  • Check for proper license
  • Verify shop’s customers are legal buyers
  • Verify no ties to drug cartels (should be easy since they’re already customers of the big banks)
  • Report suspicious activity of any kind

So, bottom line, banks will need to collect data on account holders’ business customers for the government. In other words they must spy on their customers’ customers. This is not new, of course, but it’s a good example of how the government uses banks to spy on and regulate industries.

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