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Top Federal Financial Regulator Slams Congress Over Marijuana Inaction And Calls For Interagency Banking Workgroup September 9, 2021
Top Federal Financial Regulator Slams Congress Over Marijuana Inaction And Calls For Interagency Banking Workgroup

A board member and former chairman of the federal National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is sharply criticizing Congress for failing to reform marijuana laws, and he announced on Thursday that he will be taking steps to push lawmakers to enact policy changes to help financial institutions and stakeholders caught in the federal-state cannabis conundrum.

NCUA’s Rodney Hood said at the PBC Conference that he’s “concerned that the legal and regulatory infrastructure surrounding the cannabis industry is not evolving quickly enough,” and congressional inaction is largely to blame. He also said that he feels legalization at the federal level is an inevitability.

To help fill the policy gap, the regulator is calling for the creation of an interagency working group of federal financial regulatory agencies to develop a “principles-based approach to cannabis banking” and “deliver a preliminary regulatory framework that we can share with other regulators and members of Congress who share our concern about addressing these problems.”

“Let me be clear about where I stand,” he said, according to his remarks as prepared for delivery that were obtained by Marijuana Moment. “It is time for federal action to clarify and harmonize the laws and regulations surrounding the state-legal cannabis industry and marijuana-related businesses, so that this industry can take part in the legitimate financial services industry.”

Hood is a longtime regulator at NCUA, an independent federal agency that provides deposit insurance to credit unions. He served from 2005 to 2009 under the Bush administration, was named chairman by President Donald Trump in 2019 and served for two years before transitioning to a board position.

That long-term service under multiple administrations makes Hood’s comments on marijuana policy all the more noteworthy. Rarely do regulators openly take such forceful policy positions, especially those that aren’t necessarily shared by the administrations with which they work.

Hood didn’t endorse any particular pieces of legislation, though his remarks do specifically mention the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, and he said Congress needs to effectively “harmonize” federal and state cannabis laws so that the industry is no longer kneecapped and financial institutions don’t have to fear being penalized for servicing marijuana businesses.

He also spoke more broadly about the prospect of federal legalization and characterized it as an inevitability.

“I’ve heard a variety of perspectives, but there’s one common refrain: they all agree that legalization is a matter of when, not if—and they urge federal action to get it done,” he told attendees at the conference on cannabis banking, payments and compliance. “Legalization in some form is going to happen, and the abdication of responsibility to address these issues in Washington is simply ludicrous. This is precisely the time we need leadership at the federal level to steer this ship in the right direction.”

- read the rest of the article here

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