Action Alert: Help ASA End the Bank Account Closures

As you know, dozens of state compliant medical cannabis dispensing collectives and related businesses have had their accounts closed, often without notice or explanation. ASA is deeply concerned about this trend and we’ve been working multiple channels in Washington, DC, to investigate the nature of the bank account closures and end these closures once and for all.

This week, U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Financial Services Committee Chairman, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), together with their colleagues in the House of Representatives have agreed to sponsor a congressional sign-on letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. The letter requests that the Treasury Department issue written guidance to financial institutions to clarify that the Department’s priorities do not include targeting or pursuing institutions whose account holders are involved in a business operating in clear compliance with a state medical marijuana law.


1. Please call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202.225.3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office.
To identify your Member of Congress, visit and enter your zip code.

2. When connected with the office, request to speak with the person who handles “medical marijuana issues” for the Representative

3. Whether you speak to this person directly or leave a message, tell them:

“My name is     (Your Name)     and I’m a constituent of Representative     (Rep.’s Last Name)    .  I am calling to urge Representative    (Rep.’s Last Name)    to sign on to the Polis/Frank letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner urging that the Department clarify in writing that investigation of banks whose customers are state-legal medical marijuana businesses will not be an enforcement priority.    Denying business who operate in compliance with their state medical marijuana law access to banking institutions jeopardizes public safety and constitutes and inefficient waste of federal resources.   This is important to me personally because      (add a personal comment, if you like)   .   For more information or to add  Representative    (Rep.’s Last Name)   to the growing list of co-signers, please contact Shawn Coleman in Representative Jared Polis’ office at 5-2161.  Thank you for listening to me; I am counting on my Representative’s support on this matter.” 
It is urgent that your calls be made immediately!  The more Members of the House that sign on to the letter, the better chance we have to ensure Treasury will work with financial institutions to resolve the problem and ensure legal medical cannabis dispensaries and related business are free to operate without undue burden or hardship.   For your reference, a copy of the “Dear Colleague” invitation and sign-on to the Treasury letter is below.
Caren Woodson
Americans for Safe Access
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Respect State Law and Patients Rights and Safety

From: The Honorable Jared Polis

Sent By:

Date: 5/11/2010

Dear Colleague
Fourteen states have enacted laws to ensure the safe delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients. These laws are designed to allow for regulated delivery of marijuana for medicinal purposes. This regulation is essential for controlling access and public safety. The Department of Justice, in an effort to aide local governments in regulating marijuana in manners appropriate for their communities issued a memo indicating that state-legal medical marijuana businesses would not be an enforcement priority for the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The Department of Justice memo has helped to create regularity where there was once uncertainty for states, however; due to anti-money laundering compliance issues, medical marijuana businesses in full compliance with state law are unable to establish bank accounts. The unavailability of banking services forces these businesses to become “cash-only” and as a result a soft target for crime. Further without bank records it makes it difficult for both the businesses and local governments to ensure that appropriate taxes are being remitted. 
We have been working closely with patient advocates and Treasury officials on this issue. We have reason to believe that with support of Congress, the Treasury Department will issue a memo similar to the action taken by the Department of Justice to clarify that investigation of banks whose customers are state-legal medical marijuana businesses will not be an enforcement priority.
We ask you to join us in this effort to increase safety for patients and the public, and ensure proper revenues for local governments by allowing these legal businesses to access banking services.
To co-sign this letter, contact Shawn Coleman in Representative Jared Polis’ office at 5-2161 or
Jared Polis,                       Barney Frank,                            Dr. Ron Paul,
Member of Congress       Member of Congress                  Member of Congress  


May XX, 2010
The Honorable Timothy Geithner
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20220
Dear Secretary Geithner:
As you know, the voters of Colorado approved a law providing for the use of medical marijuana for qualifying patients with a doctor’s recommendation in 2000. Since that time, the provision of this medicine to patients has become more streamlined, with collective non-profit organizations providing marijuana to patients at retail locations. The other 13 states that have medical marijuana laws have similarly made progress to ensure the safe delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients. Currently many more states are in the process of developing their strategy to address this issue in a manner that is both compassionate and consistent with our shared goal of public safety. 
Your counterparts at the Department of Justice are to be commended for issuing formal written guidelines on October 19, 2009, making clear that federal resources should not be used against people in compliance with state law in states that have legalized marijuana for medical use. Following that announcement, on November 16, 2009, Colorado Attorney General John. W. Suthers’ office issued a formal opinion stating that “Medical marijuana is tangible personal property and is subject to the state sales tax…” and that “[t]he obligation to collect and remit sales tax due is borne by the vendor [emphasis added.]”[1] 
In attempts to comply with the policy articulated by Attorney General Suthers, many medical marijuana dispensaries have opened or maintained accounts with major national banking institutions or local banks. However, dispensary operators are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain accounts with financial institutions, due to what a spokesman for Chase bank called, “’financial operational and compliance risk.’”[2] 
Thus, it seems clear that legitimate state-legal businesses are being denied access to banking services, which does not serve the public interest. Among other concerns, the effects of this denial of service include: (1) an increased risk to public safety with potential theft or robbery that any cash-only or cash-reliant business faces; (2) a decreased likelihood that medical marijuana vendors will have the ability to accurately account for tax liability; and (3) an affront to fundamental fairness, since forcing businesses to operate with cash exposes the owners to greater legal risk under the Bank Secrecy Act.[3]
As individual states move forward with establishing a regulatory framework for how to address the distribution of medical marijuana, it is essential that providers and patients alike are not subjected to undue danger from criminal activity by forcing providers to be “cash-only”. To the criminal element these places become soft targets. In a time when local governments are already financially strained; ensuring providers access to banking services has the double benefit of increasing public safety and giving local governments and providers alike the ability to ensure compliance with tax remittance.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that your office issue formal written guidance for financial institutions assuring that Department priorities do not include targeting or pursuing institutions whose account holders are involved in a business ostensibly operating in compliance with a state medical marijuana law. Not only does this remedy a fundamental inequity, it also seems a wise use of the Department’s limited resources. 
We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
_______________________   ________________   __________________________
Jared Polis                                Barney Frank                  Dr. Ron Paul
Member of Congress               Member of Congress      Member of Congress

[1] State of Colorado, Office of the Attorney General, Formal Opinion of John W. Suthers, No. 09-06, November 16, 2009. 
[2] Jefferson Dodge, Elevations Credit Union Refuses Business with Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, The Boulder Weekly, February 12, 2010. 
[3]For example, the Act requires depository institutions to file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) of any cash transaction involving $10,000 of currency in one business day. Additionally, there are numerous imaginable outcomes under the current circumstances that would cause a dispensary owner to trigger the filing of a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR).

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