Longtime congressional proponents of marijuana banking provisions are urging the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to keep intact marijuana banking guidance.
FinCEN guidelines established in 2014 — outlining how financial institutions should approach banking services with marijuana-related businesses — provided stability for a burgeoning new industry, U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., and Denny Heck, D-Wash., wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to FinCEN leadership.
“Leaving your guidance unchanged will continue to encourage small companies to make investments by freeing up access to capital,” Perlmutter and Heck wrote in the letter signed by 31 members of Congress. “It will also further provide for well regulation and oversight through suspicious activity reports.
“Rescinding this guidance would inject uncertainty in the financial markets. Attempts to disrupt this market are dangerous and imprudent.”
On Jan. 4, uncertainty swelled in the cannabis industry following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ removal of the Cole Memo and related marijuana-guidance, which laid out that enforcement priorities should not be focused on state-legal marijuana regimes. Sessions’ new guidance put the onus on federal prosecutors as to the extent they’d utilize federal resources for marijuana enforcement.
Heck and Perlmutter have been leading proponents of marijuana banking legislation. Since 2013, they’ve introduced bills that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to openly bank and allow financial institutions to serve marijuana-related businesses without fear of federal penalties.
The legislation’s latest iteration, dubbed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, was introduced in April 2017 and currently has 64 co-sponsors. A bipartisan coalition of 19 attorneys general yesterday sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging advancement of the bill or similar marijuana banking protections.
Their correspondence also comes on the heels of a similarly focused letter sent last Thursday to FinCEN by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, both of Colorado.
Bennet and Gardner said they feared that repealing the 2014 Guidance would “push more businesses toward cash, which may raise public safety issues and reduce the oversight and transparency of marijuana transactions.”
FinCEN officials on Friday told The Cannabist that the guidance remains in place.
“The SAR (Suspicious Activity Report) reporting structure laid out in the Feb. 14, 2014, guidance remains in place,” Stephen Hudak, a FinCEN spokesman, wrote via email to The Cannabist. “FinCEN will continue to work closely with law enforcement and the financial sector to combat illicit finance, and we will notify the financial sector of any changes to FinCEN’s SAR reporting expectations.”
Read the letter