LEGAL CANNABIS BUSINESSES MUST BE ALLOWED ACCESS TO BANKING SYSTEM FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, HAWAII URGES
News Release from Hawaii Attorney General, Jan 16, 2018
HONOLULU --- Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin and Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, joined by 17 other attorneys general, urged Congress today to advance legislation allowing states with legalized medical or recreational marijuana (cannabis) to bring that commerce into the banking system.
Attorney General Chin and Attorney General Lindemuth co-chair the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General Marijuana Working Group, comprised of states that have legalized either medical cannabis dispensaries, like Hawaii, or recreational cannabis.
Attorney General Chin said, “Banks and other depository institutions are currently hindered by federal law from providing financial services to cannabis businesses. This encourages a cash-only, grey market that hurts law enforcement and tax collections.”
The multi-state letter requests legislation that would provide a legal “safe harbor” for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that regulates its marijuana industry. Attorney General Chin and the 18 attorneys general emphasized that the requested legislation would not only protect public safety by bringing grey-market financial activities into the banking sector and thus subject to law enforcement monitoring, but would also result in billions of dollars infused into the banking industry.
“Twenty-nine states [including Hawaii] and several U.S. territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes,” the letter states.
The attorneys general also note a recent decision by the United States Department of Justice to rescind guidance on how financial institutions could provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses consistent with federal law. That rescission, the attorneys general argue, has made even more urgent the need for congressional action to get the cash generated by this industry into a regulated banking sector.
The multi-state letter was sponsored by Hawaii, Alaska, District of Columbia and North Dakota. It was also signed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
Today in Hawaii, 8 licensees have received permission to operate dispensaries for licensed medical cannabis patients.
PDF: A copy of today’s letter is attached.
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