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Yost urges Congress to allow pot banking; state budget provision protects CPAs

Written on May 1, 2020

Provided by Hannah News Service

Congress should pass legislation granting marijuana-related businesses access to the federal banking system, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said May 8.

Ohio’s Republican attorney general is part of a coalition of 38 state and territorial attorneys general calling on federal lawmakers to approve the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (HR1595) or a similar measure.

Under existing law, federal regulators prohibit financial institutions from providing services to marijuana businesses in states where medical or retail marijuana sales are legal. Without access to the federal banking system, these businesses are often forced to function as cash-only operations.

“When a business is dealing strictly in cash, they’re inviting a whole host of problems,” Yost said in a release. “No legal business should have to operate in a manner that provides little to no security in their financial transactions.”

Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and dispensaries began selling cannabis to patients January 2019. There are 32 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is now legal.

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act in March and it awaits a vote by the full U.S. House.

Yost said the National Association of Attorneys General has chosen to endorse the legislation as one of its official policy positions, noting that NAAG typically endorses fewer than a dozen policies per year.

The aforementioned coalition of states and territories is comprised of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

On the state level, the recently-accepted substitute version of budget bill HB166 includes language protecting public accountants who wish to provide accounting services to marijuana businesses. The provision, championed by The Ohio Society of CPAs and placed into the bill at the request of Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, clarifies that accountants are not subject to discipline solely because they provide services to these businesses.