The U.S. Treasury Department is proposing to start collecting data on marijuana businesses from banks—alongside industries it already tracks like liquor stores, convenience stores, casinos and car dealers—as part of its ongoing efforts to combat money laundering activities.
In another sign that the federal government is gradually recognizing the legitimacy of the cannabis market being legalized in a growing number of states, Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) posted a notice in the Federal Register on Wednesday saying it plans to track marijuana businesses as part of an annual Risk Summary Form (RSF) that needs to be filed by financial institutions.
“RSF collects data about different products, services, customers, and geographies (PSCs),” the notice says, adding that the agency intends to start gathering data from banks on “marijuana-related businesses” for the first time, in addition to other markets of emerging interest such as crypto assets and ATM operators.
OCC said that its Money Laundering Risk System “enhances the ability of examiners and bank management to identify and evaluate” risks that are “associated with banks’ products, services, customers, and locations.”
With the emergence of new products and services, “banks’ evaluation of money laundering and terrorist financing risks should evolve as well.” Therefore, by making these changes to its data collection process, the agency said it will be better able to “identify those institutions, and areas within institutions, that may pose heightened risk and allocate examination resources accordingly.”
A public comment period on the proposed changes is open through August 8.
It’s not immediately clear how the information collected on the Risk Summary Form is analyzed or disseminated by OCC after being submitted by banks, but the new notice says the data allows the agency to “better identify those institutions, and areas within institutions, that may pose heightened risk and allocate examination resources accordingly.”
Information on the number of financial institutions that work with cannabis-related businesses is already reported through Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) that banks and credit unions are required to submit under existing guidance, and Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) publicly releases that data on a quarterly basis.
The number of banks that report working with marijuana businesses ticked up again near the end of 2021, according to the most recent FinCEN report..
As Congress works to advance legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition and reform banking policies related to the marijuana industry, the government has tacitly acknowledged and normalized its existence despite the fact that cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
For example, the U.S. Census Bureau announced last year that it would begin collecting and compiling data on revenue that states generate from legal marijuana.
The move—to add a cannabis question to annual reports that states submit—builds upon a separate notice the federal agency posted last year that explained it would be incorporating state-level cannabis tax data in its quarterly reports.
Meanwhile, in 2021 the U.S. Economic Classification Policy Committee—which is comprised of the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics—recommended a policy change to include cannabis businesses as an official designation in the the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which is used to categorize and compile employment and market data on industries across the U.S., Mexico and Canada.