Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin joined 18 other attorneys general Tuesday in signing a letter to Congress requesting legislation that would allow states with legalized marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.
The letter, sponsored by attorneys general from Alaska, California, New York, Illinois and more, requests legal “safe harbor” for depository institutions that provide service to cannabis-related businesses in states where such businesses are legal.
“Banks and other depository institutions are currently hindered by federal law from providing financial services to cannabis businesses,” said Chin, who co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys General Working Group with Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “This encourages a cash-only, grey market that hurts law enforcement and tax collections.”
“Twenty-nine states and several U.S. territories have legalized the use of medical marijuana,” the letter states. “Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-license cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes.”
The letter argued that its request would not only infuse billions of dollars into the banking industry, but also would protect public safety by bringing “grey-market” industries into a sector where they would be subject to law enforcement monitoring.
Currently, eight licensed marijuana dispensaries exist within the state, with two licenses being issued to Big Island businesses in 2016.
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