PNC Bank has informed the Marijuana Policy Project that they will be closing down their 25-year-old accounts on July 7, due to fear of a Department of Justice crackdown led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
It’s important to note that MPP does not directly handle marijuana or related products, but is simply a law-abiding lobbying group that seeks to remove penalties for cannabis. MPP has been a major part of the recent recreational legalization successes in Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada.
MPP’s chief operating officer, Nick Field, says a PNC Bank representative informed him that their accounts would be permanently closed. The notice came after an audit of MPP’s accounts revealed that the organization received donations from businesses that directly handle cannabis, such as dispensaries and cultivators. MPP has had accounts with PNC Bank since their formation in 1995,
Even though these businesses legally operate in their home states, most banks refuse to provide them with services because of federal law that prohibits marijuana. Activists groups have largely been unaffected, since most banks recognize advocacy as separate from a cannabis business, until now.
Uncertainty may not bode well for similar groups like NORML, especially if Sessions’ reefer madness rhetoric continues. Just last week, it was reported that he’d sent a letter to Congressional leaders about prosecuting medical marijuana businesses in legal states. With that kind of complete disregard for states’ rights and lack of understanding of marijuana policy, it’s no wonder that banks like PNC are getting worried about a DOJ crackdown.
Although PNC Bank did not comment on its relationship with MPP, a PNC spokeswoman stated that “as a federally regulated financial institution, PNC complies with all applicable federal laws and regulations.”
A light at the end of the tunnel may be the Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2017, proposed by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). The bill, if passed, would “create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”
Cannabis reform groups like MPP and NORML are hoping the bill, which would allow cannabis businesses to access desperately needed banking services, passes this session.
“It’s one thing to take a position about making marijuana legal,” says Mason Tvert, MPP’s communications director. “It’s something different to say these businesses should be able to be bank legitimately.”
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