Nichols Op-Ed: Banks Want Clarity on ‘Cannabis Conundrum’

With cannabis now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, an overwhelming number of banks – 99 percent, according to a recent American Bankers Association survey — want Congress to take action to address the gap between state and federal law that prevents banks from serving marijuana-related businesses in states that have legalized the drug.

Three in four ABA member banks reported having had to close an existing account, terminate a banking relationship or turn away a potential customer because of a connection to cannabis, ABA President and CEO Rob Nichols noted in an op-ed published in The Hill on Monday. As a result, many marijuana-related businesses have resorted to dealing entirely in cash, which can make them  lucrative targets for criminals and create potential public safety risks for local communities, he added.

While ABA is not taking a position on the legalization of marijuana, Nichols pointed out that reconciling the cannabis conundrum would allow the profits from cannabis sales — which are estimated at $24 billion by 2025 — to be safely deposited within regulated financial institutions. He welcomed a bipartisan legislative proposal led by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) to address the issue of cannabis and banking, calling it “an important first step toward bringing cannabis-related businesses into the mainstream financial sector.”