TitleBytes News & Happenings

The Federal Cannabis discussion and debate continues …

Feb 19, 2020

Allan Dick, WFG National Title

A recent MLive article on the January 28, 2020 federal conviction of a former owner of medical-marijuana dispensaries in several Michigan cities (Hydroworld dispensaries) reminds us of the ongoing conflict between state laws, like Michigan’s, and the as yet unchanged federal laws classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

According to U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney, “States are changing marijuana laws across the country, certainly that’s true, but the federal law has not changed.” As such, he sentenced the owner of Hydroworld to 15 years, 8 months in federal prison. This once again focuses on the continuing debate in Washington (admittedly somewhat interrupted and over-shadowed by the current political events). Prior to those events, ALTA CEO, Diane Tomb, issued a January 13, 2020 Advocacy Update on this topic, excerpts of which are as follows:

House Energy Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Cannabis
On Wednesday, the House Energy Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing entitled “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade.” The hearing will look at a series of marijuana bills ranging from medical research proposals to comprehensive legalization blueprints. In addition, they will hear testimony from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In December, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) announced concerns with the SAFE Banking Act and proposals to allow banks, title companies and other financial institutions to handle cannabis funds. ALTA supports [lists.altalists.org] the SAFE Banking Act.

“I remain firmly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana on the federal level, and I am opposed to legalization in the State of Idaho,” Crapo said. “I also do not support the SAFE Banking Act that passed in the House of Representatives. I have significant concerns that the SAFE Banking Act does not address the high level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash to launder money into the financial system. I welcome input from all interested parties on how to thoughtfully address these concerns.”

In his announcement, he outlined five concerns that would need to be addressed before he would advance legislation. They are:

  • Add public health and safety solutions as a requirement for banks to do business with legally operating state cannabis companies. Options to consider include THC potency; clear and conspicuous disclosures on products; marketing; effects on minors, unborn children and pregnant women; and age restrictions, among other considerations.
  • Prevent bad actors and cartels from using legacy cash and the financial system to disguise ill-gotten cash or launder money.
  • Update 2014 FinCEN rulemaking and guidance regarding marijuana-related businesses and ensure FinCEN has the necessary tools it needs to prosecute money launderers and promulgate rulemakings.
  • Respect state rights in interstate commerce and banking for institutions that operate in multiple states with different state rules.
  • Eliminate “Operation Choke Point” and preventing future “Operation Choke Point” Initiatives. Under fear of retribution, many banks have stopped providing financial services to members of lawful industries for no reason other than political pressure, which takes the guise of regulatory and enforcement scrutiny.

Crapo’s public opposition makes it harder for the Senate to approve the SAFE Banking Act. If you have any questions, please contact Emily Tryon at etryon@alta.org.

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