WASHINGTON AMONG 13 STATES REQUESTING CONGRESS ADDRESS REGULATORY CONFLICT FOR BANKING MARIJUANA BUSINESSES
Lack of regulatory clarity equates to large numbers of cash transactions and concerns among financial institutions of “civil actions, forfeiture of assets, reputational risk, and criminal penalties”
Olympia – The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions joins regulators representing 13 states in sending a letter to Congressional leaders asking for consideration of legislation to provide regulatory clarity for financial institutions serving legal, licensed, marijuana-related businesses. The hope is for Congress to develop legislation that creates a safe harbor for financial institutions to serve businesses operating legally under state law or entrusts states with the full oversight and jurisdiction of marijuana-related activity.
The state regulators’ letter describes the well-documented conflict between federal and state law, which has created barriers for financial institutions desiring to serve businesses involved in state-licensed marijuana activities. The regulators cite a lack of clarity by the federal government for how financial institutions can serve this industry, without the threat of forfeiture of assets or criminal penalties, resulting in many transactions occurring in cash. They shared their concerns with respect to public safety, increased difficulty in tracking the flow of funds, and contribution to a loss of economic activity, workforce development and community development opportunities.
“As our state’s regulatory agency, it is our duty to ensure our state chartered financial institutions are operating safely and soundly,” Washington DFI Director Gloria Papiez said. “It’s imperative Congress provide clarity on how financial institutions may provide services to legal, licensed, marijuana businesses for our financial institutions to keep Washington residents’ assets safe and provide financial institutions the security of knowing they are operating within state and federal law.”
“A majority of states now have medical marijuana programs and it has become increasingly necessary to craft policy to respond to emerging challenges in this rapidly growing industry,” the letter to Congress states. “We must work together to look for solutions rather than avoiding this challenge and ignoring the new policy landscape.”