An update on the marijuana banking landscape

Last year was a big year for marijuana banking. First, the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would allow a safe harbor for financial institutions to legally bank marijuana-related businesses (MRBs), passed in the House. Second, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an interim final rule laying out a regulatory framework for legal hemp farming. Third, the NCUA published guidance giving credit unions the green light to bank hemp and hemp-related businesses. Despite this movement, the future of a federal safe harbor to bank MRBs remains hazy (pun intended). Given the Senate’s current stance on House-passed legislation, the fact that 2020 is an election year, and there may be bigger fish to fry, we may not see the successful passage of legislation. But, if we see a shift in Democratic control of the Senate, then it is very possible that legislation may be passed in 2021.

Federal Legislation – or Lack Thereof, to be Blunt.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo issued a press release at the end of last year re-affirming his opposition to marijuana legalization at the federal level, as well as his opposition to the House-passed SAFE Banking Act. Chairman Crapo identified several issues with the bill and laid out changes that he would like to see in a Senate bill. Concerns include public health and safety, preventing bad actors and cartels from using legacy cash and the financial system to launder money, updating the 2014 FinCEN rules and guidance, respect for state rights in interstate commerce, and eliminating “Operation Choke Point” initiatives. To address these concerns, Chairman Crapo suggested that any potential Senate version include:

 

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