Pross: It's time Congress fixed cannabis' green problem
Rachel Pross, chief risk officer at Maps CU, testifies in support of legislation that would protect financial institutions serving cannabis businesses where the substance is legal.

Pross: It's time Congress fixed cannabis' green problem

July 24, 2019

Maps Credit Union Chief Risk Officer Rachel Pross penned an op-ed for The Hill Wednesday on the challenges credit unions face around cannabis banking. Pross' op-ed closely followed her testimony on behalf of the CUNA/League system before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this week in support of HR 1595, the SAFE Banking Act.

CUNA takes no position on the legalization of cannabis, but it supports credit unions’ ability to serve their members. In states where cannabis is legal for medicinal and recreational purposes, credit union members are engaged in this market but have difficulty accessing traditional banking services. The public safety risk continues to grow among credit unions and communities at large due to the lack of access to banking services. 

"Millions in cash is being stored in back rooms and storehouses around the country, creating a massive target for thieves. A study out of the Wharton Business School found that a typical dispensary burglar can steal up to $50,000. To put that into perspective, the average bank robber nets $7,500,” Pross wrote. “With more states legalizing cannabis in one form or another, and with the industry slated to triple by 2023, this is a rapidly growing public safety issue. But that’s not to say it can’t be fixed.”

Maps has a rigorous ongoing compliance program for cannabis-related business accounts. The program includes sophisticated anti-money laundering analytics, physical site inspections, and in-depth quarterly reviews of the financial statements and business activities of the Credit Union’s
cannabis business account holders. 

“Fewer than 700 credit unions and banks are working closely with the government to serve these legal businesses as best as they currently can,” Pross added. “Operating under guidance from the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), these financial institutions continuously report on the financial activity of legal cannabis businesses, flagging actions that could indicate a business is engaged in illegal conduct such as selling across state lines, money laundering, or distributing on the black market.”

As of June 30, 2019, Maps has filed approximately 19,500 individual reports to FinCEN on cannabis related business activity in the State of Oregon in accordance with the Cole Memo and FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act guidance. 

“With the industry rapidly growing, and with more states legalizing cannabis in some form, Congress must act now to get cash off our streets, reduce money laundering and black-market sales, and protect communities from Maine to Hawaii,” Pross said.