Changes to federal banking laws gaining support in Florida

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Florida political candidates on both sides support changes in federal banking laws for the medical marijuana industry

While many states – 30 to date – have enacted legislation that legalizes some form of marijuana use, the federal government has been much slower at reacting and doesn’t seem to be concerned with moving soon on any marijuana agenda. This puts a burden on banks, which are concerned about running afoul of federal laws if they open their doors to entities in the marijuana industry. A number of political candidates in Florida, however, are showing strong support for wanting to influence federal regulations ahead of the upcoming elections in November.

Nikki Fried is a Democratic candidate for the state’s position of Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture (DOA). She is also a marijuana lobbyist who has led a high-profile campaign to see the federal laws changed. If elected to the state’s Cabinet, she would continue the push and help introduce laws to protect the banks. She also proposes an alternative, a state bank that would serve the industry. “We can start a state bank. That is something I have been proposing as well, a national state-bank that is controlled by the Cabinet that we can take dollars from companies and have it housed in one location,” she explains.

On the opposite side of the race is Republican Representative Matt Caldwell. He believes that an increase in responsibilities as the head of the DOA is the right move. Caldwell argues, “I am advocating for the largest role possible for the commissioner in order to see the medical cannabis program instituted and developed consistent with the law and Florida Constitution”

Democrat Jeremy Ring wants to be the state’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He supports Fried’s efforts and adds, “Sooner or later, the federal government will have to either change the classification of marijuana, legalize it in some capacity or go after more than half of the nation. Until that point, I do believe that states do have a role in assisting businesses, particularly here in Florida where over 70 percent of voters backed the legalization of medical marijuana.”

Incumbent CFO, Republican Jimmy Patronis, indicates that his office has already been working to help iron out federal banking laws. His campaign spokeswoman indicated, “The CFO’s office sent a letter to the Federal Reserve earlier this year which asked for clarification and guidance on how to best handle the lack of banking options for medical marijuana companies because he was concerned about crimes, theft and the safety of those who are managing the funds associated with those businesses.”

Additionally, both candidates for the spot of Attorney General, Democrat Sean Shaw and Republican Ashley Moody, are behind motions designed to resolve issues that stem from discrepancies between the federal government’s position on marijuana, and that of the individual states.

It’s not uncommon for the federal government to be slower to react to change than state legislative bodies. However, given the quickness with which new marijuana laws are being introduced on a state level, it would seem that a sense of priority should be added to the topic on Capitol Hill.