Cannabis Banking – The Feds Announce 105 Banks In Industry, But This May Be Misleading
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Jennifer Shasky Calvery, head of the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, told the Washington Post in August that there are now 105 banks and credit unions working with marijuana companies who are in compliance with state law.
In February, the administration released guidelines for banks contemplating clients with ties to the industry. This August, six months after the release of these new guidelines, was the first time that a federal official has mentioned a concrete number of U.S. financial institutions connected to the state legal cannabis industry in the United States.
That said, Calvery did not mention banks by name or specify the states in which they operate. This is not unusual so far this year. Many legal cannabis companies, if not the banks that serve them, are not rushing to announce institutional names. Banks in turn have long been highly reluctant to engage even state-legal marijuana businesses as customers because of fear of prosecution under federal money laundering laws. This has resulted, particularly this year, in marijuana businesses having to pay even state taxes in cash – a system which is clearly burdensome and unworkable for long.
The announcement by Calvery is intended to prove that the February guidelines issued by the Obama administration with regard to working with state sanctioned businesses are starting to work.
But according to Taylor West, deputy Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, while there has clearly been forward movement on financial reform this year, this is just the beginning.
“I think the Feds genuinely want to create a banking system that works for these businesses," she said. "I do not think they would come out and say this is starting to work if they were not truly engaged in the idea of opening up banking services for legal cannabis businesses. I give them credit for that. The reality is however, that the system they have created still has so many burdens when it comes to compliance and for the oversight they are requiring the banks to do is that it is not really proving effective in really opening the floodgates.”
West reports that her association’s members who are working with banks are being told not to mention names or discuss the particulars. She also believes that report released by the administration last month is also potentially misleading. She believes that it could be that these banks are just filing suspicious activity reports (SARs) and may not in fact all be reporting on legal clients within the cannabis industry. SARs are supposed to capture known or suspected violations of the law or suspicious activity observed by financial institutions subject to federal banking regulations.