Supervisors of state-chartered credit unions have written to Congress in reference to backing legislation that would provide clarity to the legality of giving financial serves to legal marijuana businesses

“This legislation represents an important first step in curing the ambiguity around serving these businesses and their affiliates,” NASCUS President and CEO Lucy Ito sent a letter back on July 15 to Sen. Jeff Merkley as well as Sen. Cory Gardner, the main sponsor of the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2105. Ito even addressed the document to Rep. Earl Perlmutter and Rep. Denny Heck who have financial backed similar legislation.

Ito pointed out that while almost 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis use in one form or another, it still remains illegal under federal law, developing tension that leaves state-chartered credit unions ripped between their responsibilities to follow federal law and serve their neighborhoods.

“Resolving this conflict of law will make the communities where this activity has been legalized and the financial institutions serving those communities safer,” Ito wrote. “It will allow businesses operating in accordance with state law to serve customers, pay taxes and minimize the risk of attracting violent crime. It will bring non-law abiding businesses under the direct and thorough scrutiny of state and federal supervisory authorities. Finally, it will enable financial institutions to pursue business and development plans with a clear understanding of regulatory expectations.”
Ito quoted information from the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network that is over 100 financial institutions have started working with legal marijuana firms.

“Current guidance from the Department of Justice and FinCEN, while helpful, leaves financial institutions exposed to the risk of significant criminal, civil and administrative action,” Ito pointed out. “If left unresolved, the uncertain status of marijuana businesses under Federal law could translate to real losses for community financial institutions, not to mention the ongoing threat of violent robberies in local communities where legal marijuana businesses are forced to operate with dangerously large amounts of cash.”

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