Fearing that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will make good on his threat to impose a crackdown on the legal cannabis trade, PNC Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the United States, has decided to sever all ties with any organization connected to marijuana.
According to the Washington Post, PNC recently told national marijuana advocacy group, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), that it was permanently terminating its accounts because an internal audit showed the group distributes funds to assist in efforts to legalize marijuana.
‘‘They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,’’ said Nick Field, MPP’s chief operating officer.
While marijuana is now legal in more than half the nation, it remains an outlaw substance in the eyes of the federal government. It is for this reason that most large, corporate banks will not have anything to do with any business that earn profits from the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
In fact, banking officials typically qualify new accounts by asking company representatives if their dealings are associated with marijuana. This even happens in states where the herb remains illegal under state law.
Therefore, it is beyond the scope of imagination how the Marijuana Policy Project ever managed to secure an account in the first place, especially considering that the organization’s name pulls no punches about its connection to the cannabis movement.
A representative from the American Bankers Association told the Post that most banks do not take into account whether a business is selling marijuana or simply advocating for legalization. If a group is associated with marijuana, that alone is enough to get them turned away.
But PNC Bank has handled money for the Marijuana Policy Project for more than the past two decades. So it seems likely that the decision to pull the plug on MPP’s bank accounts is just more fallout stemming from the latest anti-marijuana antics coming from the Trump administration.
It was revealed last week that Attorney General Sessions has been trying to persuade congressional leadership not to renew the only protections the marijuana industry has in place to prevent a federal crackdown.
In a letter referencing a medical marijuana rider known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, Sessions said, “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.
“The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives,” he added.
Although it has been known for months that Sessions is reviewing federal marijuana policy, quite possibly in an effort to craft a devious plan of attack against the cannabis industry, some advocates believe it was the attorney general’s letter that got PNC running scared.
But do banks really have any reason to be afraid?
The truth is the Justice Department has never even investigated a bank for its connection to legal marijuana.