Attorney generals from across the U.S. agreed to officially recognize the launch of The Public Health & Safety Cannabis Financial Service Certification, which was announced at the Attorney General Alliance’s (AGA) Cannabis Project Conference in Denver, Colorado on April 20-21.
The certification serves as a way to assist both “law enforcement and state regulators” in identifying legal cannabis businesses from illegal operations, and addresses banking issues as well. “In absence of federal regulation and oversight, the need for an independent versus self-certification is imminent. As the cannabis industry grows, we must have banking safeguards to mitigate illicit and criminal conduct. This is an important first step to give guidance to state attorneys general and lawmakers while raising the bar for the industry,” said AGA Executive Director Karen White. “The certification brings banking and financial transparency to ensure the safety of the monetary system for institutions banking hemp and cannabis.”
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas presented certifications at the conference as well. “It is crucial to know where cannabis and hemp operators are banking to maintain a level of compliance,” said Balderas. “This certification will give regulators that insight. Additionally, hemp and cannabis operators can stand by their own financial and operational integrity as they subject themselves to volunteer audits.”
A pilot program was completed for the certification in October 2021, which was the culmination of work of ASTM International, an organization that spans more than 900 members, and 28 different country governments. “I am pleased to see that what was envisioned over a year ago is complete,” White said last year. “A program such as this which provides support to law enforcement and assists in issues related to public health and safety, consumer protection, and rule-of-law are necessary in this maturing industry where compliance is a distinguishing attribute.”
Banking continues to be major problem in the cannabis industry. Most recently, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act in February, and while there has continually been support for banking legislation, full support of congress has not yet occurred. The need for safe banking is necessary, especially in light of recent events in Washington state where multiple cannabis dispensary robberies recently occurred. Two minors, 15 and 16 years old, killed dispensary employee Jordan Brown, who worked at World of Weed in Tacoma, and are also responsible for numerous other robberies.
The SAFE Banking Act was first introduced by Ed Perlmutter in 2013, during a time when only Washington and Colorado had legalized recreational cannabis. On April 19, Perlmutter wrote a letter to Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Senator Booker, Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, and Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Sherrod Brown. “The SAFE Banking Act is an immediate solution to get cash off our streets and ensure state-legal, legitimate businesses can operate like any other type of business, particularly small and minority-owned cannabis businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by the lack of banking services,” Perlmutter wrote. “It will also make our communities safer from the increased risk of robberies facing cannabis businesses and employees which continue to occur, including three people who died during robberies in one-week last month in Washington state.”
Perlmutter implores his addressees to embrace the SAFE Banking Act. “We share the same goals to fully reform federal cannabis laws. We cannot let our fight for comprehensive cannabis reform stall progress this year. This would be to the detriment of thousands of state-legal businesses, their employees, and the safety of our communities,” he concluded in his letter. “As you work through the summer to finalize comprehensive cannabis legislation, I ask you and your colleagues to take the first step in reforming our cannabis laws and pass the SAFE Banking Act in the America COMPETES Act or as a standalone bill as soon as possible.”