Sep 10, 2013 3:58 PM by AP
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.