Lousiana’s banking regulator joins push for better marijuana legislation

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The group wants Congress to make it easier for banks to work with the industry

The commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions, John Ducrest, has joined forces with financial regulators in 12 other states to help shape policy and push Congress to enact legislation that will allow banks to work with the marijuana industry. The banking regulators have collectively signed a letter addressed to congressional leaders that pushes for “safe harbor” legislation for the financial institutions. While many states have passed laws to legalize marijuana, it is still illegal at the federal level, making it difficult for the banks to operate in conjunction with the marijuana industry without running afoul of federal laws.

The group, which is led by Pennsylvania, is urging federal legislators to remove “unnecessary risk” that prevent banks from working with the industry. Marijuana usage, in some form, is now legal in 31 states, but has yet to be addressed by federal lawmakers.

This discrepancy has already caused one legally-operated marijuana business in Louisiana to shut down. According to Ducrest, “I’m not taking a position on or for marijuana, but the banking system is where you want things to flow through. Very few (banks) are willing to do it because of the fear on the federal level.”

Growers, dispensaries and other marijuana-related businesses have instituted a cash-only policy due to the federal limitations. In its letter to Congress, the group asserted, “This raises concerns with respect to public safety, increases difficulty tracking the flow of funds, and contributes to a loss of economic activity, workforce development and community development opportunities.”

It’s too early to tell whether or not the efforts will pay off. The letter was only delivered last month and it will more than likely be a while before any headway is seen.