Judge Calls Last Year’s Federal Marijuana Banking Guidance Memo A ‘Nothingburger’
Marijuana businesses are largely boxed out of the banking industry. Most banks will not work with marijuana businesses because marijuana is illegal federally. Last year the United States Treasury Department issued ‘guidance’ on the issue in an attempt to help banks navigate through the rules. That ‘guidance’ proved to just create more confusion and chaos. The marijuana industry is massive, and growing constantly, yet it’s an all-cash industry right now (except for the lucky few that have bank accounts, which could get shutdown at any time).
There needs to be a place that businesses can safely deposit their money and experience the benefits of a regulated banking system that all other state-legal industries experience. Today a credit union (Fourth Corner Credit Union) argued before a federal judge about how the credit union was chartered by the State of Colorado, but that the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has blocked the credit union’s access to the nation’s banking system, effectively preventing the credit union from working with the marijuana industry. The judge had mixed reactions, in that while the judge sympathizes with the credit union and marijuana industry, the judge isn’t inclined to force the federal banking system to allow access to the credit union. Per the Associated Press:
U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson repeatedly said he sympathizes with the struggling pot businesses. Jackson twice called existing federal guidance on marijuana money a “nothingburger,” meaning that memos from the Treasury and Department of Justice don’t solve the federal-state conflicts caused by legalizing pot.
But he seemed hesitant to order the Federal Reserve to give a pot bank access to the banking system as long as the bank is relying on memos from federal agencies, and not an act of Congress, to say pot shops should have a way to avoid dealing in cash.
“We think there ought to be banking and regulation. I get that. I agree with that. But that’s not the legal question here, is it?” Jackson said.
The pot bank’s lawyer argued that national marijuana legalization is inevitable, but Jackson retorted that the pot bank should take up its problem with Congress and not the courts.
“If I were in the Congress, I’d vote for you, but I’ve got to do the job of a federal judge here,” Jackson said.
I personally feel that banking reform for the marijuana industry is coming in 2016. I base this feeling off of a conversation I had with Congressman Earl Blumenauer earlier this year. Earl seemed confident that there would be movement on this issue, and so I am inclined to trust his judgement. Banking is a very, very big issue for the future of the marijuana industry, and if you haven’t already, please contact your Senators and Representative and tell him/her to do something about this issue.