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FinCEN’s Calvery: Laws needed for banks servicing marijuana businesses

Jennifer Shasky Calvery

Jennifer Shasky Calvery

Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said last week that while guidance published for financial institutions servicing marijuana businesses lends some clarity, the issue would be best approached through legislation.

“This is a unique and complex issue, and only legislative change can fully and completely address it,” Calvery said before the Florida International Bankers Association, adding that the guidance issued by FinCEN and the U.S. Department of Justice last week is designed to “enhance the availability of financial services or marijuana businesses and mitigate the dangers associated with conducting an all-cash business.”

Calvery’s call echoes that from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), who said the guidance is helpful but not adequate to protect financial institutions from liability and legal ramifications.

Perlmutter has introduced legislation—the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act—that would protect depository institutions serving legitimate marijuana businesses from regulatory or share and deposit sanctions and provide immunity from federal prosecution or investigation.

The FinCEN guidance also clarified that financial institutions are still able to provide services to marijuana-related businesses consistent with their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act, which seeks to detect and prevent money laundering.

Financial institutions have voiced concern regarding the legal repercussions of dealing with marijuana dispensaries and other related businesses.

Additionally, the guidance instructs financial institutions on how to file reports that contain information pertinent to law enforcement, which Calvery said will have “greater insight into marijuana business activity generally and will be able to focus on activity that presents high-priority concerns.”

“We believe that FinCEN’s approach best balances the multiple competing interests currently at play,” Calvery said.

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