Governor Inslee to Feds: Expedite Better Marijuana Banking Guidance

When the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidance in February opening the door for financial institutions to bank legal marijuana businesses, media and even state regulators speculated they would jump at the chance.

Didn’t happen.

Nearly four months later, no Washington banks and only a handful of credit unions have expressed interest. Concern lingers that the guidance wraps more red tape than opportunity around the banking of marijuana businesses. The situation is similar in Colorado, the other state licensing recreational marijuana businesses.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper sent a joint letter to four federal agencies asking them to “expeditiously provide public, follow-up inter-agency guidance to both examiners and depositary institutions.”

The letter was sent to the NCUA, the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve. 

“Banks and credit unions in Colorado and Washington are waiting for the Federal Banking Agencies to furnish the instructions given to bank and credit union examiners before deciding whether and how to provide banking services to state licensed recreational marijuana businesses,” the letter stated and noted that once the marijuana businesses in both states are operational, they are exposed to “significant risks of criminal activity associated with accepting, storing and transporting large quantities of cash that can be ameliorated by access to the banking system.”

A timeline for response from the federal agencies is not yet clear.

“We have received the governors’ letter, and it is under agency review,” said John Fairbanks, a spokesman for NCUA.

Questions about this story? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Compliance, Federal, NCUA.