Banking on Cannabis – Marijuana Venture

Two credit score unions on reverse sides of the nation clarify why they’re standing by their choice to supply monetary providers to state-authorized marijuana companies

If you ask anyone concerned in authorized hashish about their largest considerations for the business, banking will definitely be one of many prime solutions.

It’s been an ongoing and far-talked-about challenge for years — and escalating with each new state that implements a regulated medical or leisure program — but progress appears nonexistent and depends on the tenuous standing of a 2014 steerage memo from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

As Washington and Colorado enter their fifth yr of leisure marijuana gross sales, the banking state of affairs stays a lot the identical as was in 2014: A couple of monetary establishments have opened their doorways to hashish companies, however by and enormous the choices are restricted and little to no headway has been made on the federal degree to make sure entry to conventional monetary providers.

While many hashish business professionals braced for dangerous information on the banking entrance following U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ transfer to revoke the Cole Memo, representatives from no less than two credit score unions — Bulldog Federal Credit Union in Maryland and Salal Credit Union in Washington — have been undeterred of their mission to offer providers to marijuana-associated companies (MRBs).

Marijuana Venture spoke with Bulldog president David A. Barrett and Salal vice chairman of enterprise providers Carmella Murphy Houston about banking what many bigger monetary establishments have deemed an unbankable business.

Bulldog is a newcomer to the market, having just lately introduced plans to supply banking providers to hashish companies in Maryland’s fledgling medical hashish business.

“It’s a perfect fit,” Barrett stated.

“As a financial institution, we recognize the need for medical cannabis entrepreneurs to be able to conduct business in a forthright, transparent and compliant manner that is both safe and part of the state regulatory environment,” he added.

Meanwhile, Salal Credit Union was one of many first monetary establishments within the nation to brazenly welcome authorized hashish companies. It started serving state-licensed companies in Washington in June 2014 — only one month earlier than the state’s first authorized, leisure gross sales.

“It’s gone very well but we’ve undergone a lot of regulatory scrutiny,” Houston stated. “Lessons learned: Make sure you fully understand the market, current regulations and take time to educate your regulators on your program. We had to define our target market quickly as there were more inquiries than we could assist.”

Marijuana Venture: Why do you see hashish companies as a superb match on your respective credit score unions?


David A. Barrett: Many causes. We’re kindred spirits. Credit unions and MRBs each have been borne of grassroots actions — of widespread individuals working collectively to satisfy a standard want and to raised the lives of those that share widespread beliefs.

Credit unions exist to serve the unbanked and underserved segments of society. Unlike different unbanked shoppers who’ve relinquished their proper to banking providers by way of their very own indiscretions, hashish companies are reputable, financially viable entities that lack entry to even probably the most primary monetary providers. Bulldog’s core competency is transactional banking, and that’s precisely what MRBs want at this level of their evolution.

Finally, it’s a matter of dwelling as much as the credit score union motto of “people helping people.” Medical marijuana companies exist solely to assist individuals, lots of whom could also be in our personal area of membership. By serving to the individuals in Maryland’s medical hashish business, we’re finally serving to our personal member base.


Carmella Murphy Houston: We are a medium-sized, progressive credit score union with a well being care background and noticed it as a chance to advance the analysis of the confirmed and potential well being advantages to sufferers affected by continual well being points, in addition to help professionally managed small companies that present jobs and tax revenues for substance-abuse prevention, analysis and schooling. We additionally noticed it as a chance to turn into a pacesetter in an underserved, rising market.


MV: Do you consider the choice to offer providers to hashish companies is an general profit to the security of the group and the hashish business?


Houston: Absolutely. By serving the hashish business we’re capable of take away loads of the money and enhance public security by decreasing the probability of armed robberies and cash laundering.


Barrett: Large sums of accessible money are all the time a danger. By permitting hashish money to maneuver into the reputable banking system, we scale back the danger not solely to those that personal the money, however to the group at giant who could also be caught within the “crossfire” so to talk. Plus, compliant monetary providers forestall hashish funds from discovering their means into the black market.


MV: Do you anticipate any blowback from the federal authorities, notably at a time when the progressive legalization of marijuana stands at such odds with excessive-rating members of the present presidential administration?


Barrett: No. The present administration, I consider, has expressed a want to return management to states for points outdoors the constitutional necessities of the federal authorities. That places the hashish challenge squarely within the states’ area.

The present administration additionally acknowledges a have to separate itself from the acute proper who’ve tried to say the presidency as their very own private pulpit. What’s extra, the federal authorities has offered no funding to help an about-face on their stance on the hashish problem. Finally, nobody can dispute the monetary windfall gained by an infusion of hashish funds into the American financial system. The monetary advantages are deep and much-reaching.


Houston: We have labored intently with each our state and federal regulators to make sure that we’ve got a strong on-boarding and ongoing due diligence program that’s compliant with FinCEN steerage. As lengthy because the FinCEN steerage stays in place we don’t anticipate any blowback.

MV: How does U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ rescission of the Cole Memo impression your credit score unions’ operations inside the hashish business?


Barrett: It doesn’t. We’ve constructed our hashish banking program across the regulatory necessities set forth by FinCEN and the state of Maryland to be compliant, clear and versatile.


Houston: Our administration staff and board of administrators have rigorously reviewed the professionals and cons of banking the business and we plan to remain the course and proceed with enterprise as ordinary.


MV: Would you contemplate offering providers to any companies outdoors your respective states, both within the close to future or as a part of an extended-time period technique?


Houston: Salal is increasing into Oregon and we’re reviewing laws in California and Nevada for potential future enlargement.


Barrett: Bulldog Credit Union is sure by the necessities of our NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) constitution. Our constitution permits us to offer membership to “persons who live, work, worship or attend school in, and businesses and other legal entities in, Washington County, Maryland; spouses of persons who died while within our field of membership, employees of the credit union; volunteers in the community, members of their immediate families or households; and organizations of such persons.”

We will supply providers to any enterprise who meets a type of qualifications.

MV: How do your respective states’ licensing buildings provide help to vet potential shoppers within the hashish area?


Barrett: Actually that in all probability makes the method a bit simpler for the hashish enterprise, however it’s no shortcut for us. Having been awarded a Maryland license means the hashish enterprise has already achieved a variety of legwork and will have lots of the paperwork we would require in our on-boarding course of on the prepared.

But we now have a totally totally different set of vetting necessities for the monetary business, and we will probably be following a strict course of for overseeing their operations all through the time period of their relationship with us.


Houston: We have an excellent relationship with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board and respect the in-depth due diligence and ongoing monitoring they do on every licensed enterprise. We evaluate their due diligence and piggyback on it by including our personal with out duplicating efforts. They present ongoing entry to gross sales and violations that we monitor, which helps us monitor our enterprise members’ compliance.


This interview has been edited for readability and size.


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