With the lack of regulation surrounding marijuana businesses’ connection with the banking industry, what are financial institutions to do? Should they serve these customers that have legitimate businesses in some states, or should they stay away because that business is illegal in others? According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the answer seems to be a combination.
FinCEN numbers reveal that more than 1,700 suspicious activity reports have been filed in 25 different states using the phrase “marijuana limited.” This comes after Department of the Treasury guidance from February that told financial institutions to use this term when reporting on services provided to the marijuana industry.
However, many financial institutions are also terminating customers when determining they have a connection to the marijuana industry. Nearly 1,300 suspicious activity reports from 42 states contain the term “marijuana termination,” which the guidance proposed using when a bank cut off a customer because of marijuana connections. Furthermore, 313 suspicious activity reports contained the phrase “marijuana priority,” meaning that the customers may be involved in illegal activity.
The statistics were requested by Alison Jimenez, president of Dynamic Securities Analytics, and Steven Kemmerling, chief executive and founder of Enhanced Compliance Solutions, and given to the Wall Street Journal.
The marijuana industry is a growing sector, as a study from ArcView Market Research said the sector is now valued at $2.7 billion. And as more states, such as Alaska and Oregon, move towards marijuana legalization, regulations surrounding these companies will begin to take center stage.
“The exceptions are not always very clear,” said David Welch, whose firm DR Welch specializes in marijuana law, to InsideCounsel in March. “It’s important to have a lawyer involved. The lawyer is able to guide the client through the law.” Welch adds that there is no model law for how companies should handle the burgeoning industry, and “each state is different.”