Michigan lawmakers to feds: Move now on cannabis banking and hemp rules

LANSING – The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association joined state lawmakers today to support resolutions calling on the federal government to change marijuana banking laws and to quickly adopt rules regulating industrial hemp.

Representatives Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Jim Lilley (R-Park Lake) introduced a resolution in the House and Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East lansing) introduced a concurrent resolution urging the swift passage of the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019.

“Michigan cannabis businesses operate in a legal, highly regulated industry. They deserve to have accesses to the same banking opportunities as any other business in this state,” said Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Robin Schneider.  “We have more than 30 states with medical marijuana and 10 states that allow full adult-use legalization. It’s time for Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act.”

Most banks refuse to do business with licensed cannabis companies due to marijuana’s federal status as a Schedule I substance, which results in the industry relying heavily on cash transactions. The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal regulators from penalizing financial institutions that handle marijuana-related transactions if they are legal under state law.

“The people of Michigan overwhelmingly voted to legalize medical marijuana and adult use of marijuana,” Rep. Rabhi said. “But it’s hard to maintain a safe, well-regulated, and taxed marijuana industry when they are forced to run a cash-only business. It’s in the public interest to let them use banks and credit unions like everyone else.”

“It doesn’t make sense to treat legal, regulated businesses like illicit drug dealers,” Sen. Hertel said. “These folks are just trying to run a business and pay their taxes, but federal banking regulations are getting in the way. For the sake of public safety and accountability, Congress needs to give legal marijuana businesses access to the banking system.”

“By forcing business owners to carry around duffel bags full of cash or purchase old banks so they are able to utilize the buildings’ existing vaults, we are openly inviting criminals, thieves, and thugs to engage in money laundering, robbery, and extortion. It’s time we put an end to this, and Congress has the power to act to protect our communities and our families,” said Rep. Jim Lilly who co-sponsored the resolution.

In addition to the House and Senate banking resolutions, Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) introduced a resolution calling for the federal government to establish rules governing industrial hemp. Hemp lacks the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and can be used to make clothing, building materials and even food products. It was legalized in Michigan in 2018 via Proposal 1 and nationally in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Lack of federal action also affects farmers and researchers who would like to grow commercial hemp, which is why I have a resolution calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize rules for this now-legal product,” said Rep. Gay-Dagnogo.

Gay-Dagnogo’s resolution states that Detroit has an abundance of vacant land that could be used for industrial hemp farming, as well as the processing and production of over 25,000 potential products and finished goods.