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June 11, 2018

Maine Credit Union League backs bill to protect legal cannabis from feds

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Todd Mason, president and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League, joined his counterpart at Mountain West Credit Union Association in writing a letter of support for the STATES Act of 2018 legislation, which would remove the threat of federal prosecution in Maine and other states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use.

The Maine Credit Union League is supporting a bill introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate that would remove the threat of federal prosecution in Maine and other states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use.

The Credit Union Times reported that MCUL is one of four credit union leagues supporting the "Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018," which is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Joining MCUL in supporting the bipartisan legislation are the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the Cooperative Credit Union Association and the Northwest Credit Union Association, the trade publication reported.

Legislation also was introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. David Joyce, R-Ohio, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Maine is one of 46 states having laws that permit marijuana or marijuana-based products for either medical or recreational use.

The Hill reported that Warren and Gardner introduced the bill in response to the Trump administration's hardline stance opposing marijuana legalization, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing in January a rollback of an Obama-era policy that gave states freedom to manage recreational marijuan use.

Their bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to state that it no longer applies to entities (such as credit unions and banks) following state, territory or tribal laws "relating to the manufacturer, production, possession, distribution, administration or delivery of [marijuana]."

Why the credit union leagues support the bill

The Hill reported that Gardner criticized, in particular, laws that make it difficult for marijuana businesses because the substance is illegal according to the federal government.

"This city of Denver, the state of Colorado, can collect taxes … they can take it to the bank," Gardner said. "But if you're in the business, if you work for the business, you can't get a bank loan or set up a bank account because of the concern over the conflict between the state and federal law. We need to fix this public hypocrisy."

Todd Mason, president and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League, co-authored a letter with Mountain West Credit Union Association President and CEO Scott Earl voicing support of the STATES Act of 2018 legislation.

"Currently, we cannot serve an industry that generates several billion dollars in sales and tax revenues — the recreational cannabis industry — without substantial risk due to ongoing uncertainty over federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act," Mason said in a joint news release with MWCUA. "This has become not only a states' rights issue, but an important public safety issue."

Without access to standard banking services, some marijuana companies have had to come up with alternative financing solutions, according to the news release, which added: "Many are unable to undertake the most basic functions of successful businesses, such as paying vendors, employees and taxes, but instead have large amounts of money unsecured, unaccountable and at risk for abuse."

"The STATES Act would provide the certainty we need as financial services providers to service this growing industry and protect our members and the taxpayers of our states. This is a matter independent of the question of legalization of cannabis and is about ensuring the rights of states to fully implement the will of their voters," Earl stated.

Both credit union leagues urged Congress to take swift action to address the states' rights question and pass the STATES Act "without delay."

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