A group of 16 lawmakers is pushing for new cannabis banking guidance in a bid to create fairer access to financial services for cannabis-related businesses in states where cannabis is no longer illegal.
The lawmakers have called on The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury, to update its guidance to prevent financial institutions from punishing cannabis-related businesses for past convictions.
Based on FinCEN’s 2014 guidance, many financial services do not work with cannabis businesses, preventing them from accessing vital services such as banking services and business loans.
The letter stated that updated guidance should clarify that if a cannabis-related conviction has been expunged, pardoned, or is no longer considered illegal under state law, financial institutions should not consider this a “red flag”.
The letter reads: “Under this current guidance, a marijuana business owner with a marijuana conviction may be able to participate in a state licensing programme on paper, but in practice may be unable to access a bank loan because they are considered a high-risk customer, and others may be denied bank accounts and left to operate their businesses on a cash-only basis, exposing workers to safety risks.”
The lawmakers highlight that this approach “disproportionately harms Black- and Brown-owned businesses, whose owners are more likely to have a marijuana-related conviction, though they are not more likely to have violated marijuana use laws.”
Lawmakers that have signed the letter include: Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) signed the letter.