By Donya Parrish, MCU VP- Risk Management
One of the outcomes of the recent elections in Montana is that marijuana will be legal for adults (over 21) to use recreationally next year. There are a lot of unknowns at this point since court challenges to the citizen initiative are promised, an incoming legislature can adjust or nullify it, and our new governor may or may not support it.
The important question for credit unions is — how will it impact your policy on serving marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) and their employees? What about others delving into hemp and related industries? Most of our credit unions in Montana are not serving MRBs currently, although the businesses continue to grow and expand with medical marijuana currently allowed.
All those unknowns at the state level may pale to possible changes at the federal level. There has been legislation moving through Congress for several years to allow banking options for the marijuana industry, but it has had no success getting through the Republican Senate. With the possible incoming Biden Administration, executive orders could reinstate The Cole Memos or further pull back federal enforcement in states with approved medical or recreational statutes (see the map above for the current breakdown.) A new U.S. Attorney General could also have an impact on the state vs. federal law tension.
The bigger question, in my opinion, is whether you should just write that MRB policy in pencil or keep the white-out handy. Change is coming, and this is an industry that is desperate for banking services. The risk and oversight to serving them will continue, even if the legal barriers fall, so buckle up — we are in for an eventful 2021!