I once heard a business man from outside of the marijuana industry say ‘if you don’t have an insurance policy, an accountant, and a bank account, you are not a real business.’ That may be true in other industries, but in the marijuana industry, those are not easy things to obtain. An accountant is very easy to find in the industry. An insurance policy is slightly harder, but it’s not usually an issue. A bank account on the other hand, is very difficult to obtain, and for many marijuana businesses, it’s impossible.
MBank made headlines recently when the Oregon-based bank announced that it would be closing all marijuana business accounts. There are some banks that will work with the industry still, and a handful of credit unions, but they are few and far between. How many marijuana business bank accounts are out there? And how many have been shutdown since federal guidelines were issued in 2013? Per Marijuana Business Daily:
Banks have filed more than 1,700 so-called “marijuana limited” suspicious activity reports since the federal government issued guidance early last year on how financial institutions can handle dealings with cannabis businesses, an indication that banks are in fact working with marijuana companies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A “marijuana limited” report is filed by a bank on a company that works in the cannabis industry but isn’t violating state law or any priority enforcement areas outlined in the 2013 Cole Memo.
About 1,300 “marijuana termination” reports were filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fincen), meaning banks ended their relationship with companies. Some 313 “marijuana priority” reports – those indicating there may be activity that violates the Cole Memo or state law – were filed, according to the Journal, citing a Freedom of Information Act request by Dynamic Securities Analytics and Enhanced Compliance Solutions.
There’s obviously no way to put an approximate number on the amount of marijuana bank accounts that are active, but I the termination statistic is very accurate I think. When a bank discovers (or has always known) that an account is for a marijuana business and its shut down, they notify the feds almost immediately to cover their own butts. I’m curious what that does at the federal level. Is there a master list being compiled? And if so, how is that information used? Will the information be used to target the marijuana business in the future? We could see a much, much harsher President come into the White House in 2016 – will the new administration use data that is being collected now to target businesses in 2017? I sure hope not. Hopefully true banking reform occurs before that happens.