Connect with us

Business

More Banks Welcome Marijuana Business Accounts, New Federal Report Shows

Published

on

The number of banking institutions that are actively servicing accounts for marijuana businesses has grown by nearly 20 percent since the beginning of the year, according to newly released federal data.

As of the end of September, there were 375 banks and 111 credit unions maintaining financial services for cannabis businesses, according to a report published this month by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

It is the latest in a series of quarterly updates the agency has issued, which together have shown steady growth in the number of financial services providers that are willing to work with the cannabis industry despite its continued federal illegality.

FinCEN

The new data comes as marijuana reform continues its political ascendancy. During this month’s midterm elections, Michigan voters approved marijuana legalization and those in Missouri and Utah passed medical cannabis measures. Several new pro-legalization governors are set to take office in January. And Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where cannabis legislation is expected to be more seriously considered in 2019 than it has been over the past several years. One of the most-sought reforms by marijuana businesses is greater clarity on their ability to access banks.

In 2014, under the Obama administration, FinCEN issued guidance to banks about how to serve the marijuana industry without running afoul of federal regulators. The memo, which requires financial services providers to regularly file reports on customers with cannabis accounts, was meant to provide assurances to banks. But many have remained reluctant to work with marijuana businesses because ongoing federal cannabis prohibition could trigger money laundering laws and other risks.

In October, the American Bankers Association began surveying its members about the issues they face in serving cannabis businesses.

“We believe the time has come for Congress and the regulatory agencies to provide greater legal clarity to banks operating in states where cannabis has been legalized for medical or adult use,” a spokesperson for the organization said at the time.

“The [marijuana banking] reporting structure laid out in the 2014 guidance remains in place,” the new FinCEN report, which was first spotted by Cannabis Wire, says. “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” cannabis reporting procedures.

When then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved in January to rescind separate Obama-era guidance that generally protected state marijuana laws from federal interference, industry participants feared that it would spook major businesses like banks from associating with cannabis operators.

The new FinCEN data showing steady growth in the number of financial institutions maintaining marijuana industry accounts indicates that those fears were largely unfounded.

Meanwhile, a number of key Trump administration officials have indicated they want to see a clarity on cannabis banking issues.

For example, Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, has suggested in congressional testimony that he wants state-legal marijuana businesses to be able to store their profits in banks.

“I assure you that we don’t want bags of cash,” he told a House committee in February. “We do want to find a solution to make sure that businesses that have large access to cash have a way to get them into a depository institution for it to be safe.”

In a separate hearing he said that resolving marijuana banking issues is at the “top of the list” of his concerns.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in June that the disparity between local and national marijuana laws “puts federally chartered banks in a very difficult situation.”

“It would great if that could be clarified,” he said.

That same month, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairwoman Jelena McWilliams said that while she directed her staff to consider ways to address the issue, the agency’s hands are “somewhat tied” until federal law changes.

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said last month that he is “hopeful there’s enough momentum in that direction” toward solving marijuana businesses’ banking access issues and that forcing them to operate in cash is “generally not healthy.”

Pressure is also coming from the states. In August, a coalition of the top financial regulators in 13 states sent a letter demanding Congress take action to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses.

Despite the growing call for clarity on the issue, key committees in the House and Senate rejected amendments this summer that would have prevented federal banking regulators from punishing financial institutions for serving the marijuana industry.

Standalone legislation to provide permanent protections to banks that work with cannabis businesses have garnered increasing numbers of cosponsors in both chambers, though they haven’t been scheduled for hearings or votes.

It remains to be seen whether a Democratic House will move cannabis banking legislation in 2019, and whether the Republican-controlled Senate would go along.

Portions of this story were previously published on Forbes.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Business

Bank Of America Cancels Account Of Marijuana And Psychedelics Research Institute Registered With DEA

Published

on

The second-largest bank in the U.S. is shutting down the account of a research institute that’s federally authorized to cultivate and study Schedule I substances like marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms.

Bank of America (BoA) abruptly notified the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) that it would be closing its accounts last week, without a clear explanation of the reasoning. A letter from the bank that was shared with Marijuana Moment on Monday says the decision was made after “a careful review of your banking relationship” and that the action is “final and won’t be reconsidered.”

SRI has spent years fighting for expanded access to research-grade controlled substances to study their therapeutic potential, in part by litigating against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on issues such as cannabis scheduling. In May, it received preliminary approval from the agency to be one of the first new federally authorized cultivators of cannabis for research, effectively ending a decades-long monopoly on such manufacturing.

The institute is already getting bids from other financial institutions that want to take on the account after chief investigator Sue Sisley shared the news of the BoA closure on social media.

“We just wanted to expose wrongdoing of these big banks,” Sisley told Marijuana Moment, adding that they want to “show the public that even federally legal operations are being unfairly targeted by these large banks who refuse to look at our federal regulatory documents.”

It takes significant resources to obtain and maintain DEA clearance to grow and study Schedule I substances like marijuana. One theory that Sisley floated was that BoA may have decided to end the business relationship after SRI was more recently cleared to cultivate psilocybin for research, but the bank provided “zero justification.”

“Maybe it was the mushrooms that freaked them out?”

Marijuana Moment reached out to BoA for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Sisley said the institute received “no warning,” with “no ability to speak to somebody logical who could review our operating agreement with DEA. We have been plant-touching since our start with Bank of America 10 years ago” and were “always transparent about that.”

“We have a contract with DEA. We are growing cannabis for [Food and Drug Administration] clinical trials and selling it to the DEA,” she said. “It’s unconscionable the way they are behaving—and further proof that the word ‘cannabis’ continues to be completely radioactive even though this is a 100 percent federally legal operation.”

“Fortunately, there are banks that care about the progress of federally regulated and federally legal research and are eager to step up and support us immediately,” Sisley added. “We will be moving our funding from Bank of America and never returning there. Our research continues without harm because other banks that care about scientific freedom were able to step up. Bank of America doesn’t even have the decency to provide an explanation after a decade of banking with an openly plant-touching business.”

SRI has been behind several legal challenges imploring the federal government to remove research barriers for Schedule I drugs like marijuana and psychedelics.

In August, a federal appeals court has dismissed SRI’s petition to require DEA to reevaluate marijuana’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—but one judge said in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the medical value of cannabis.

The lawsuit received oral arguments in June and largely centered on DEA’s 2020 denial of a one-page marijuana rescheduling petition filed by a separate individual. In its response, the agency argued that marijuana has no currently accepted medical value.

The petitioners initially filed their lawsuit, Sisley v. DEA, against the federal agency in May of last year, contending that DEA’s justification for maintaining a Schedule I status for cannabis violates the Constitution on numerous grounds. DEA attempted to dismiss the case, but the Ninth Circuit rejected that request in August.

In a separate case, the institute successfully forced DEA to issue an update on the status of its application to grow cannabis and then got the Justice Department to hand over a “secret” memo that DEA allegedly used to justify a delay in deciding those proposals.

Meanwhile, DEA is taking additional steps to promote research into the potential risks and benefits of marijuana and certain psychedelics. Last week it proposed a dramatic increase in the legal production substances like cannabis, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT to be used in research next year.

DEA had already massively upped its proposed 2021 quota for cannabis and psilocybin last month, but now it’s calling for significantly larger quantities of research-grade marijuana and a broader array of psychedelics to be manufactured in 2022.

But despite these developments and the changing policy landscape surrounding marijuana and psychedelics at the state and local level, many financial institutions remain reluctant to service clients that work with these currently federally illicit products.

The number of banks and credit unions reporting that they work with marijuana businesses ticked up last quarter, according to federal data released last month.

Lawmakers have been working to to enact clear, statutory protections for banks and credit unions that work with the marijuana industry to alleviate remaining hesitation in the financial services industry about working with cannabis businesses. That would be accomplished through House-passed standalone legislation, or an amendment that was attached to a defense spending bill last month.

In the meantime, Sisley said SRI could sue BoA over the account cancelation, but it has other things to focus on.

“We have important work to do,” she said. “We need to stay on our path to helping whole plant cannabis flower walk through the entire FDA drug development process.”

States Promote Federal Hemp Survey Being Mailed Out This Week To More Than 20,000 Farmers

Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Business

Americans Want To Live Where Marijuana Is Legal, Real Estate Survey Finds

Published

on

Americans would rather live in states where marijuana is legal than in those that continue to criminalize cannabis consumers. That’s according to a new survey published on Monday by real estate company Redfin.

Among those who recently moved to a new metro area, 46 percent said they prefer to reside somewhere marijuana is “fully legal,” compared to just 22 percent who want to live in a place with prohibition still in effect.

The share of those who like legalized jurisdictions includes more than one in ten respondents—12 percent—who say they would only consider living in places where cannabis can be legally purchased. On the other side, 10 percent said they would rule out moving to areas that have ended criminalization.

Thirty-two percent of people taking the survey said they don’t care about the marijuana issue when it comes to where to live.

Via Redfin.

The survey, which involved 1,023 U.S. residents who moved to a new home during the 18 months prior to answering the questions in August, also asked about other issues such as abortion policy, voting rights and anti-discrimination laws for gender and sexual orientation.

Redfin said that while public policies on cannabis and other issues are important factors in deciding where to move, other considerations often take precedence.

“People take the politics of a place into consideration when deciding where to move, but the truth of the matter is that other factors including housing affordability and access to jobs and schools take priority,” Taylor Marr, the deputy chief economist for the company, said in a press release. “Oftentimes this means someone will move from a blue state to a red state (or vice versa), but choose a home in a neighborhood where most people hold the same political views as they do. Austin—a liberal Texas enclave that’s attracting scores of left-leaning folks from pricier coastal cities—is just one example.”

Prior analyses, including one published this year that uses data from online real estate marketplace Zillow, has shown that marijuana legalization is associated with higher home property values. “Home values increased $6,338 more in states where marijuana is legal in some form, compared to states that haven’t legalized marijuana,” it concluded.

Last year, a separate analysis from economists at the University of Oklahoma similarly found that states that legalize marijuana see a boost in housing prices, with the effect most pronounced once nearby retail outlets open for business.

Research—including a study released this month that was authored by a federal official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—has tied cannabis legalization to lower crime rates, a key factor in home values and neighborhood desirability.

Impact Of Marijuana Legalization On Crime Reduction Is Being Underestimated, New Study Finds

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Business

Nevada Sold More Than $1 Billion In Marijuana In One Year, Officials Report

Published

on

Nevada retailers sold more than $1 billion in medical and recreational marijuana over a one-year period, state officials announced on Wednesday.

The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) and the Nevada Department of Taxation released the data, which shows $1,003,467,655 in taxable cannabis purchases in Fiscal Year 2021, which ran from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

By contrast, total marijuana sales for the prior 2020 fiscal year amounted to $685 million.

The bulk of the marijuana purchases ($791,100,017) came from Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. Another $135,326,790 of cannabis was sold in Washoe County, with Reno being the major city in that jurisdiction. The $77,040,859 remainder came from other counties.

Ten percent of tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales will support pubic education funding, as prescribed under a bill that Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) previously signed.

“This is what Nevadans expected since the legalization of recreational marijuana,” the governor said in a press release about the new sales data. “Education remains one of my top priorities, and I’m proud to see promised tax revenue from cannabis sales directly funding our students and classrooms.”

Sisolak also signed a bill in June to legalize marijuana consumption lounges in the state.

The new social use license types statewide and giving consumers this option—especially in the tourist-centric state—could further boost marijuana and other tax revenues.

The governor has also committed to promoting equity and justice in the state’s marijuana law. Last year, for example, he pardoned more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level cannabis possession.

That action was made possible under a resolution the governor introduced that was unanimously approved by the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Meanwhile, states across the U.S. have been touting marijuana sales and the resulting tax revenue as markets continue to mature.

For example, Illinois marijuana retailers have sold nearly $1 billion worth of legal recreational cannabis products so far in 2021, officials recently reported.

Maine recreational marijuana sales broke another marijuana sales record in August, exceeding $10 million for the first time since the adult-use market launched in October 2020.

Arizona brought in about $21 million in medical and adult-use marijuana tax revenue in July, state officials reported on a new webpage that enables people to more easily track how the industry is evolving.

California collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, state officials estimated in August. That’s 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the prior fiscal year.

A recent scientific analysis of sales data in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State found that marijuana purchases “have increased more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous two years.”

In July alone, at least three states saw record-breaking sales for recreational cannabis. The same goes for Missouri’s medical marijuana program.

Michigan marijuana sales broke another record in July with more than $171 million in cannabis transactions, according to data from the state’s regulatory body. There were $128 million in adult-use sales and $43 million in medical cannabis purchases.

Throughout the pandemic, many states allowed cannabis retailers to remain open—with governors and regulators in several markets declaring marijuana businesses to be essential services—and some jurisdictions issued emergency rules allowing curbside pickup, delivery services or other more relaxed policies in order to facilitate social distancing.

Meanwhile, New York officials are projecting that marijuana tax revenue will help keep the state’s budget afloat as cigarette sales continue to decline over the coming years. But retails sales have yet to launch as of now.

Read the marijuana sales data that Nevada officials released below: 

Click to access ccb-dot-cannabis-taxable-sales-data-fy21.pdf

Top Federal Drug Official Gives Maryland Lawmakers Marijuana Legalization Advice At Workgroup Hearing

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment