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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • California DBO issues cannabis banking guidance

    State Issues

    On October 3, the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) issued guidance for state-chartered financial institutions that serve cannabis-related businesses. The guidance, which is intended to help financial institutions manage risks appropriately, addresses cannabis program governance and compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), as well as cannabis banking guidance issued in 2014 by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). As previously covered by InfoBytes, FinCEN’s guidance—which includes federal law enforcement priorities still in effect that were taken from a now-rescinded DOJ memo—details the necessary elements of a customer due diligence program, ongoing monitoring and suspicious activity report filing requirements, and priorities and potential red flags. Notably, the DBO states that while it will not bring regulatory actions against state-chartered financial institutions “solely for establishing a banking relationship with licensed cannabis businesses,” it expects all financial institutions to comply with FinCEN’s BSA expectations and guidance to make appropriate risk assessments. The DBO also referred bank examiners to its September Cannabis Job Aid, which is intended to assist with the examination of financial institutions that may be banking cannabis-related businesses.

    State Issues Cannabis Banking CDBO FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Examination

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  • House passes one marijuana banking bill while state AGs urge passage of another

    Federal Issues

    On September 25, the U.S. House passed the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) by a vote of 321-103. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in March, the House Financial Services Committee passed the bipartisan measure, which would provide a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that has implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability in the marijuana industry.

    Additionally, on September 23, a bipartisan group of 21 state attorneys general wrote to members of Congress to urge the advancement of a different piece of legislation that would allow banks to serve marijuana-related businesses in states and territories that have legalized certain uses of marijuana. Specifically, the letter expresses support for the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act), which “would allow each [s]tate and territory to determine, for itself, the best approach to marijuana legalization within its borders, while at the same time creating protections to ensure that such regulation does not impose negative externalities on those states and territories that choose other approaches.” The AGs emphasize that neither the SAFE Act (S.B. 1028 and H.R. 2093) nor the letter serve as an endorsement of any “particular approach to cannabis policy,” but rather are intended to prevent residents of states and territories that have legalized some form of marijuana from being subjected to “a confusing and dangerous regulatory limbo.” The STATES Act would effectively exempt marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in states where the drug has been legalized. In addition to providing an exemption from the CSA, the STATES Act would reduce businesses’ reliance on cash-only models—which, the AGs argue, make it more difficult to track revenue for tax and regulatory compliance purposes—and provide certain protections for states that choose to operate in this industry.

    Federal Issues Federal Legislation State Attorney General Cannabis Banking

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