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Official: Feds to let banks do business with licensed pot shops

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WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Obama administration will allow banks to do business with licensed marijuana companies with a reduced fear of criminal prosecution if the banks meet a series of conditions, a U.S. Justice Department official said on Friday.

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The Justice and Treasury departments were preparing written guidance that would stop short of promising immunity for banks but make clear that prosecution for money-laundering and other crimes was unlikely if they cooperated with regulators, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the release of official memoranda.

The guidance was intended to increase the availability of banking services, such as savings and checking accounts, to marijuana shops that typically deal in cash, the official said.

Colorado last month became the first state to open retail outlets legally permitted to sell marijuana to adults for recreational purposes, in a system similar to what many states have long had in place for alcohol sales. Washington state is expected to follow Colorado's lead.

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