Licensed Marijuana Growers In PA Might Have Weed, But They Still Can't Get A Bank Account – 90.5 WESA
Pennsylvania handed out licenses to 12 companies to grow marijuana for medicinal uses last week, and is expected to license producers and dispensaries soon. However, it could be tough for those businesses to get bank accounts.
Although Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana, it’s still illegal at the federal level. That means all of the proceeds from growing, producing or selling it are illegal as far as the federal government is concerned.
That leaves banks that accept proceeds for such activity at risk of federal prosecution.
“Banks have discretion about whether they actually want to do business with the cannabis industry, it’s just a matter of… the potential for the shoe to fall and to be prosecuted for involvement in an illegal enterprise,” said Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney Cannabis Industry Group Co-Chair Jason Wrona.
Banks that accept cannabis-related income as a deposit could face criminal charges, including money laundering.
The U.S. Treasury Department has said enforcing those laws is not a priority, but that does not mean the banks are without risk. That risk could be growing. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said his office would enforce all marijuana-related laws.
“I am aware of folks in other states that have to lug around gym bags and suitcases full of cash to do things such as pay their taxes,” Wrona said.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking, or SAFE Act, is pending in Congress, which would exempt banks from prosecution for handling money related to a state-sanctioned cannabis business. Similar measures have twice failed in the past.
Wrona said, in states where the state-sanctioned cannabis industry is more mature, some banks have become comfortable with the risk and have begun taking deposits from grows and sellers.
When asked about its policy on accepting such funds, Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank issued the following statement: