Bipartisan Group of Senators Urges FinCEN to Stay the Course on Cannabis Banking

Bipartisan Group of Senators Urges FinCEN to Stay the Course on Cannabis Banking

Forcing businesses to operate in all-cash increases risk of crime, threatens public safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of Senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), today urged the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to keep in place guidance that has enabled some financial institutions to provide banking services for legitimate cannabis businesses in states that have legalized medical or recreational cannabis.

In addition to Merkley and Murkowski, today’s letter to FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco was signed by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

“We urge FinCEN to preserve this guidance to continue to support banking infrastructure and access to financial institutions for businesses that are operating in accordance with state and local law and abiding by 8 other stated factors in your guidance,” the Senators wrote. “FinCEN’s stated priorities have allowed such businesses to conduct commerce more safely through financial institutions which reduces the use of all cash, improves public safety, and reduces fraud…. This guidance must remain intact because the risks involved in removing it are too great.”

The Senators’ letter follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attack earlier this month on states’ rights to set their own cannabis laws. The Sessions decision throws into chaos years of work to create a safer, more stable market, and threatens to drive cannabis sales back underground into the dangerous black market.

Merkley is the lead Senate sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, legislation that would ensure legal cannabis businesses can access banking services.

The full text of the letter follows below.

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January 18, 2018 

The Honorable Kenneth A. Blanco

Director

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20220        

Director Blanco,

We are writing to express our continuing support for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance from 2014 on the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Expectations Regarding Marijuana-Related Businesses. This guidance was developed and issued in conjunction with the Department of Justice and has provided much needed stability to a growing market.

We urge FinCEN to preserve this guidance to continue to support banking infrastructure and access to financial institutions for businesses that are operating in accordance with state and local law and abiding by 8 other stated factors in your guidance. FinCEN’s stated priorities have allowed such businesses to conduct commerce more safely through financial institutions which reduces the use of all cash, improves public safety, and reduces fraud. Leaving your guidance unchanged will continue to encourage small companies to make investments by freeing up access to capital. It will also further provide for well regulation and oversight through suspicious activity reports.

Rescinding this guidance would inject uncertainty in the financial markets. Attempts to disrupt this market are dangerous and imprudent. We see the removal of protections on financial institutions, which are operating in accordance with state laws, as a poor alternative to creating meaningful policy though the political process. This guidance must remain intact because the risks involved in removing it are too great.

We believe any move to eliminate revoke or change the 2014 guidance is unwise. We ask you stay the current course, a proven method that both encourages safe commerce and discourages illegitimate markets.

Sincerely,