While Congress is a long way from removing the regulatory burdens on credit unions and others in serving the cannabis industry (and related products) for states where that is legal, there is regular action on this issue to inch it forward. And this is positive for credit unions in Georgia as the state Legislature passed bills in 2019 regarding the legal cultivation of both hemp as well as low-THC oil this session. These types of businesses, and the individuals who work there, will need financial services, which is why the hurdles in federal law and how these businesses (and the financial transactions) are treated need to be addressed on a federal level.
On July 23rd the most recent effort to remove the federal regulatory hurdles took place when the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs conducted a hearing regarding the issues surrounding providing financial services for the cannabis industry. Credit unions were out front with Rachel Pross, Chief Risk Officer at Maps Credit Union in Oregon, sharing insight on the negative realities that face the consumer as well as the financial institution… and what Congress can do to relieve them.
It pays to stay engaged on this issue, not just from a federal perspective but also from a state perspective, as changes on a state level could drastically impact how (or even IF) credit unions could serve these industries outside of what Congress passes. During the summer and fall of 2018 GCUA was engaged with hearings held around the state that sought to bring forward the low-THC as well as hemp bills, and these bills were monitored closely during the 2019 session to prevent any unintended barriers on credit unions. And this work continues; on July 23rd GCUA met with State Rep. Dar’Shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) to discuss her recent announcement that she was seeking to introduce potential bills to attempt to resolve the issues surrounding financial services to the cannabis industry. Our thanks to Rep. Kendrick for meeting to discuss the challenges in seeking a state solution to a federal issue, and keeping the financial industry in Georgia in mind on legislation before it is even drafted.
While everyone has opinions on the decriminalization of medicinal or recreational cannabis, it is important for credit unions operating in states where it is legal to have the safe harbors and regulatory protections for the members and member businesses involved in the cannabis market. These individuals need access to traditional depository and lending services, the absence of which creates a significant public safety issue. And this will include Georgia.