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Poor compliance brings federal action to cannabis banking

Friends, you’ve likely seen the news that Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and co-sponsors reintroduced the SAFE Banking Act today. (link) Perhaps I’m too cynical (I am a lawyer), but I’ll find that bill much more interesting if it gets to the floor of the Senate (a point I made around this time last year - link).

Speaking of banking, an interesting piece of news came out earlier this week about financial institution compliance. American Banker reports that a Michigan-based credit union is the subject of an enforcement action by the National Credit Union Administration (a federal agency that regulates credit unions) for “compliance failures involving the cannabis industry.” (link; hat tip to Steven Kemmerling of CRB Monitor for pointing this story out to me) As the article notes, this appears to be the first federal regulatory action against a financial institution relating to cannabis (although it also notes that “at least two other financial institutions that served the industry have previously gotten in trouble in connection with their anti-money-laundering efforts.”).

As far as I know, it’s been years since the Department of Justice has prosecuted a state-compliant cannabis business (plant-touching or ancillary), and plenty of other federal agencies allow the industry to go on operating (case in point – the IRS has frequently asked questions to make it easier for cannabis companies to comply with federal tax law (link)), but this action makes it apparent that they’re still (link) not going to tolerate anything less.

Don’t get me wrong – the federal government doesn’t necessarily make it easy for the industry, and one shouldn’t assume that couldn’t change on a dime. (link) My takeaway is that, without strong compliance, you’ve got bubkes (and that’s where cynical lawyers come in handy (link)).

Tags

cannabis, department of justice, safe banking act