Marijuana banking just got more complicated

Well, we can’t say we didn’t see this coming…we blogged back in March, 2017 on what the change in administration might mean for marijuana banking, and the federal government announced a change in its policy towards marijuana enforcement late last week.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions changes DOJ’s position on marijuana.

In a move long forecasted by many legal and policy observers, last Thursday the attorney general issued a memorandum to rescind Obama-era guidance on federal enforcement of marijuana. Released just days after California became the latest (and largest) state to begin sales of recreational marijuana, the memo directs “all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles,” in marijuana enforcement, thus eliminating the already-limited guidance that provided some measure of direction in navigating the conflict between federal illegality and state legality of marijuana. This policy shift will significantly heighten risks for credit unions serving state-authorized marijuana-related businesses or operating in states with legalized cannabis.

Sessions’ memo rescinds a 2013 directive, written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, which instructed federal prosecutors to focus its marijuana enforcement efforts on eight priorities, including keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors and black market criminals and cartels.  It also rolls back a 2014 Cole memo that directed U.S. Attorneys to apply the same eight enforcement priorities in prosecuting financial crimes based on transactions involving marijuana proceeds.  The so-called Cole memo guidance had cleared up some of the uncertainty about how federal prosecutors would address the conflict of laws as states began allowing sales of marijuana for medical and recreational use.


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