The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) is issuing guidance to clarify Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) expectations for financial institutions seeking to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. FinCEN is issuing this guidance in light of recent state initiatives to legalize certain marijuana-related activity and related guidance by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) concerning marijuana-related enforcement priorities. This FinCEN guidance clarifies how financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses consistent with their BSA obligations, and aligns the information provided by financial institutions in BSA reports with federal and state law enforcement priorities. This FinCEN guidance should enhance the availability of financial services for, and the financial transparency of, marijuana-related businesses. MARIJUANA LAWS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT PRIORITIES
The Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) makes it illegal under federal law to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana.1 Notwithstanding the federal ban, as of the date of this guidance, 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized certain marijuana-related activity. In light of these developments, U.S. Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole issued a memorandum (the “Cole Memo”) to all United States Attorneys providing updated guidance to federal prosecutors concerning marijuana enforcement under the CSA.2 DOJ’s federal enforcement activity, including civil enforcement and criminal investigations and prosecutions, concerning marijuana in all states.
The Cole Memo reiterates Congress’s determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Cole Memo notes that DOJ is committed to enforcement of the CSA consistent with those determinations. It also notes that DOJ is committed to using its investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way. In furtherance of those objectives, the Cole Memo provides guidance to DOJ attorneys and law enforcement to focus their enforcement resources on persons or organizations whose conduct interferes with any one or more of the following important priorities (the “Cole Memo priorities”):
• Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors;
• Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels;
• Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
• Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
• Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana;
• Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
• Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and
• Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
Concurrently with this FinCEN guidance, Deputy Attorney General Cole is issuing supplemental guidance directing that prosecutors also consider these enforcement priorities with respect tofederal money laundering, unlicensed money transmitter, and BSA offenses predicated on marijuana-related violations of the CSA. PROVIDING FINANCIAL SERVICES TO MARIJUANA-RELATED BUSINESSES
This FinCEN guidance clarifies how financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses consistent with their BSA obligations. In general, the decision to open, close, or refuse any particular account or relationship should be made by each financial institution based on a number of factors specific to that institution. These factors may include its particular business objectives, an evaluation of the risks associated with offering a particular product or service, and its capacity to manage those risks effectively. Thorough customer due diligence is a critical aspect of making this assessment.
Read the Full Memo Here: FIN-2014-G001