The question of whether credit unions can serve individuals and businesses in the emerging hemp and cannabis-related product markets continues to be heard in Georgia, and for good reason, as there is a growing need for safe financial services for this sector. As such, credit unions, Leagues and CUNA continue to promote with Congress and their federal regulators the need for relief in this area, asking Congress to remove the regulatory burdens that surround serving individuals in the cannabis industry. However, with states authorizing the sale and/or cultivation of legal marijuana (or low THC as well as hemp farming in Georgia), the pressure for federal action is growing. The credit union industry has been encouraging Congress to move forward the bill to address it (SAFE Act HR 1595), which passed the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year and awaits action on the House floor. In the meantime, however, work continues in other areas to promote safe access to financial institutions, seeing movement as of late from the federal regulator of credit unions:
- On August 19th, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) released interim guidance on serving hemp businesses. With this action, federally insured credit unions can provide certain financial services to legally operating hemp businesses. The move comes on the heels of a request for clarification by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. NCUA will issue additional guidance once upcoming regulations and guidelines are approved by the Department of Agriculture. Hemp, defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC, was legalized at the federal level as part of the 2018 Farm Bill and in the Georgia Legislature in 2019.
- NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood, in an August interview, also stated that the NCUA would not sanction credit unions serving cannabis businesses in states where it has been legalized. This message was also commended by the National Association of State Chartered Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) in August.
And, the Senate met in July to discuss the federal regulatory hurdles, with credit unions a part of the testimony urging action – so this issue is continuing to take shape. Regardless how one may feel on the legalization of cannabis, it is important for credit unions to be able to serve members in a safe and sound manner. This work to promote the need for Congress to provide protections for credit unions that serve such businesses and members in states where it is legal continues. Stay tuned!