Treasury Secretary Inches Toward Support for Cannabis Banking

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wants to “find a solution” to public safety and tax collection issues arising from the cannabis industry’s inability to access reliable banking services. In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday, Mnuchin stopped short of expressing support for the current official guidance to banks or pending House legislation that would create legislative protections for banks working with legal businesses in the burgeoning multi-billion-dollar industry.

“I assure you we don’t want bags of cash [sitting in dispensaries],” Mnuchin testified during his three-hour-plus appearance. But, “we want to make sure we can collect our necessary taxes and other things.”

The bank guidance, issued in 2014 by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), established rules allowing “banks to open accounts for marijuana growers, processors, and retailers without running afoul of federal regulators,” reported Forbes.com. “But last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a broader policy from the former administration that has generally cleared the way for states to implement their own cannabis laws without Justice Department interference. That move has led to fears that the Trump administration may tear up the banking memo as well.”

Mnuchin did little to put that fear to rest, stating the guidance currently is under review by the department, but he at least attempted to calm concerns the industry would be left totally adrift without any guidance. “The intent is not to take it down without a replacement that can deal with the current situation,” he said.

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Mnuchin also responded to questions from Reps. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) about concerns regarding cannabis businesses around the nation being abandoned by banks at the very moment when more banks than ever are opening accounts for cannabis businesses. Perlmutter asked about H.R. 2215, aka The SAFE Act, a bill he sponsored that would “create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

The bill was co-sponsored by former Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who was tagged to be the lead sponsor of the bill before being lured away to become the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Perlmutter wanted to know whether Mnuchin could have a word with Mulvaney about legislation he should still support. The treasury secretary said he would.

“Prior to his being confirmed by the Senate last year,” noted Forbes.com, “Mnuchin said in response to written questions from a senator that marijuana businesses’ banking and tax issues are ‘very important.’”

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