Pa. Pot law that could shield banks from lawsuits awaits Wolf’s signature

Banks, credit unions and insurers would be protected from state lawsuits for doing business with legitimate cannabis companies in Pennsylvania under a bill awaiting Governor Tom Wolf’s signature.

Wolf spokeswoman Elizabeth Rementer said Wednesday that the governor is “reviewing the bill.”

The governor has supported the recreational use of marijuana, and industry experts have said he must sign House Bill 331, which was passed by the State House and amended by the Senate. It allows financial institutions and insurers to deal with cannabis companies without fear of prosecution by law enforcement authorities.

» READ MORE: What to know about buying legal NJ marijuana if you live in Pennsylvania

Pot is a Schedule I substance of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means it is considered to have a high potential for abuse and is therefore illegal. This will likely prevent major credit card companies from accessing marijuana dispensaries until complementary federal legislation is passed.

The federal Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, commonly known as the SAFE Banking Act, aims to address the marijuana problem, but has stalled in Congress.

The state legislation was expected to increase the number of businesses serving the cannabis industry and move money into the safety of the banking system while opening doors for cannabis operators to seek bank loans, margins credit and other financial services, Jordan said. Grant, director of government relations at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, a Harrisburg-based trade group.

READ MORE: How do marijuana laws work in Philadelphia?

The medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania is dominated by large operators, which has been partly blamed on difficulties in raising capital for smaller companies.

“Legal cannabis companies don’t have access to banks or the insurance market like other businesses,” said Michael H. Sampson, co-head of the Cannabis Industry Group at the downtown law firm. by Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl.

“Many banks don’t want to do business with cannabis companies because of federal anti-money laundering laws and other laws.”

Federal anti-pot laws have made marijuana — legal for recreational use in 19 states and for medical use in 37 other states and the District of Columbia — almost entirely a commercial activity. Thieves have spread in recent years and dispensary thefts have increased.

As of May 3, for example, there have been 84 armed robberies of cannabis stores in Washington state, including the shooting death of an employee, according to the Spokane Journal of Business. Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, a Harrisburg-based trade group, welcomed the Pennsylvania bill’s passage, adding that she was unaware of a similar spike in dispensary thefts. of Pennsylvania.

“As an industry, we’re thrilled,” Buettner said. “It will certainly allow more companies to do business with cannabis companies in the Commonwealth.”

The law would only protect companies from lawsuits from state laws against dealing with marijuana companies; prosecution under federal laws may still be possible, Sampson said.

“It will only affect the Commonwealth by taking adverse action,” he said. “Even after passage, the bank may still not be immune from the possibility of federal lawsuits or interference.”

In Pennsylvania, a doctor can prescribe marijuana for 23 medical conditions, including chronic pain, nausea, and multiple sclerosis. More than 633,000 patients and caregivers have been issued marijuana cards in the state, enabling dispensary purchases.

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