With less than 50 days before the implementation of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, it remains tempting to project variances on recreational to medical sales, supply and demand variables or percent of sales tied to edibles. Information is easy to come by; facts not always the case. What cannot be overlooked or underestimated is the state of the State and the changes to banking.
In February 2019, the Treasurer’s Office of Illinois introduced the Banking Options for Legal Cannabis-Related Businesses Act. This act provides protections within the Illinois state banking laws for financial institutions that provide services to cannabis-related businesses (CRB). And as of July 2019, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) was prohibited from penalizing or discouraging a state bank or credit union solely for providing financial services to cannabis-related businesses.
Adding even further clarity and transactional ease comes via The Community Invest – Cannabis Banking Services Program. Crafted as a purpose-built scheme, the program supports financial institutions by providing basic banking services to Illinois cannabis-related businesses (CRB). As a result and beginning on January 1, 2020 CRBs will now have access to (1) check writing, (2) payroll direct deposits, and (3) make electronic or check payments for a myriad of services including required licenses, fees, and taxes. Illinois CRB’s will now have capacity to grow and plan for capital expenditures while the state benefit comes from a previously all-cash market migrating to a regulated, transparent and fully bankable system.
At the national level, the outlook is not so clear. According to new federal data released by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the number of credit unions and banks servicing the cannabis industry has leveled off this past quarter. FinCEN is a division of the U.S. Treasury that collects and analyzes data about financial transactions to crack down on possible terrorist funding, money laundering or other financial crimes. Prior to this recent federal data being released, increases in the number of charters processing cannabis business had been on the rise. And while these new data points may not necessarily be a trend, it could very well indicate a shift in the anticipated number of banks looking towards full federal legalization.
The House of Representatives September 25th passage of the SAFE Act moves the ball in the right direction federally, yet the outcome will most likely be an amended bill as suggested by the Republican controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader McConnell could possibly allow some form of the bill to hit the Senate floor to garner 2020 voters, though historically he has shown an inclination in blocking attempts to reform federal cannabis laws. Come January 1, all eyes will be on Illinois and a successful introduction and implementation of the states new cannabis guidelines may be the template for other states and the federal government to follow.