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Hanabusa, Gabbard Urge Equal Banking Access for State-Licensed Marijuana Businesses

January 23, 2018, 9:50 AM HST (Updated January 23, 2018, 1:49 PM)
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Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa signed on to a letter with 29 of their colleagues urging the US Department of the Treasury to maintain current federal guidance regarding state sanctioned marijuana businesses.

In a letter, the lawmakers called on the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to maintain federal guidance allowing marijuana-related businesses licensed under state law to access financial institutions and banks without facing federal prosecution.

Eight states and the District of Columbia permit adult recreational use of marijuana. There are 29 states including Hawai‘i, the District of Columbia, and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico that allow medical marijuana use.

“Our outdated and contradictory federal laws on marijuana have created disorder in our economy, leaving state-licensed businesses and banks in confusion and uncertainty. For five years, our federal government ensured protection for financial institutions doing business with state-licensed marijuana-related businesses, only to face a complete reversal of policy under the Trump Administration,” said Congresswoman Gabbard.

“Until we remove marijuana from the Federal Controlled Substances List, we must uphold the 2014 US Treasury guidance that improves public safety, reduces fraud, promotes opportunity, and strengthens our economy. That’s why I’m pushing this bipartisan initiative to ensure the US Treasury maintains safe business practices and financial security for legal marijuana businesses in Hawai‘i and across the country.”

“The federal government issued guidance in 2014 that promised protections for banks and other financial institutions who serve state sanctioned marijuana businesses. Now, President Trump wants to rescind this guidance and mire a rapidly expanding industry in uncertainty,” said Congresswoman Hanabusa.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa official photo.

“Hawai‘i is one of 21 states that permit medical use. The Hawai‘i Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program covers more than 19,000 patients and issued licenses to eight dispensaries. This is a growing sector of our local economy that is creating jobs and has the potential to generate significant new revenue and opportunities for other industries, like agriculture. I maintain that state lawmakers must carefully examine how to regulate and ensure public safety if Hawai‘i joins the national trend of states generating new revenue to pay for government services by legalizing marijuana for recreational use. This is a states’ rights issue and Congress must ensure that those rights are protected,” Hanabusa continued.

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Cosigners of the letter include Representatives: Denny Heck (WA-10), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Don Young (AK-AL), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Dina Titus (NV-01), Tom Garrett (VA-05), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jacky Rosen (NV-03), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Jared Polis (CO-02), John Delaney (MD-06), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Darren Soto (FL-09), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Gwen S. Moore (WI-04), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Michael Capuano (MA-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09).

Congresswoman Gabbard is the lead Democratic co-sponsor of H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list, as part of her commitment to common sense criminal justice reform. She has called for closing the gaps between federal and state law to resolve current contradictions and provide legally abiding marijuana businesses with clear access to financial services.

“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,” wrote the members.

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