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Governor Cuomo Announces Further Action To Support Development Of Medical Marijuana And Industrial Hemp Businesses In New York

LongIsland.com

Governor Directs Department of Financial Services to Encourage New York State-Chartered Banks and Credit Unions to Provide Banking Services for New York's.

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NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Photo by: Governor's Press Office, via Flickr.

Albany, NY - July 4, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced further action to support the development of medical marijuana and industrial hemp businesses in New York, directing the Department of Financial Services to provide guidance to support the safe and sound provision of banking services for these businesses. The DFS guidance issued today encourages New York State chartered banks and credit unions to consider establishing banking relationships with medical marijuana-related businesses that are operating in New York in full compliance with all applicable New York State laws and regulations, including the New York Compassionate Care Act, and the applicable regulations and requirements of the New York State Department of Health. Today's guidance also encourages New York State-chartered banks and credit unions to support the development of industrial hemp businesses statewide, continuing this significant economic development goal of New York State.
 
"The ability to establish a banking relationship is a challenge that legal industries face unlike no other," Governor Cuomo said. "As the federal government continues to sow discord surrounding the medical marijuana and industrial hemp businesses, New York has made significant progress in creating a supportive economic development and regulatory landscape for these companies."
 
"While the federal government ignores the reality of the benefits of medical marijuana and industrial hemp, New York has supported the development of the industry and advanced our agricultural economy," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We're cutting the red tape and removing regulatory barriers to support businesses in the legal cannabis industry. Today's action to encourage banking relationships will go a long way to assist this emerging sector of our economy."
 
Healthcare and patient care are fields that are traditionally regulated by states. In recognition of the demonstrable medical benefits of marijuana, New York has taken a compassionate approach to patient care. The state has considered the findings of respected medical practitioners and researchers, as well as the reports of patients in need of medical marijuana's unique properties, in enacting legislation that allows treatment options to seriously ill individuals. The New York Compassionate Care Act signed by Governor Cuomo in 2014 provides patients suffering debilitating symptoms and diseases access to medical marijuana, under strict requirements regulated by the Department of Health.  
 
In addition, under Governor Cuomo, New York has recognized the economic development opportunity for farmers and businesses across the state, by permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp. Governor Cuomo signed legislation in 2017 to amend New York law to ensure that industrial hemp will be considered an agricultural product and that it will be treated the same way as other crops and seed.  
 
The Department of Financial Services is aware that the unsettled environment at the federal level has discouraged institutions from providing financial services to companies with medical marijuana or industrial hemp operations. Because marijuana currently is still listed on Schedule I under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, medical marijuana and industrial hemp-related businesses operating in accordance with New York State laws and regulations continue to have difficulty establishing banking relationships at regulated financial institutions.  
 
In the guidance issued today, DFS advised New York's chartered institutions that it will not impose any regulatory action on any New York State chartered bank or credit union for establishing a banking relationship with a medical marijuana-related business that operates a compliant business in New York, as long as the New York State chartered bank or credit union complies with the requirements of: 
 
  • The 2014 Financial Crimes Enforcement Network guidance;
  • The guidance and priorities set forth in the Department of Justice's 2013 memorandum from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole; and
  • Is subject to the institution's own evaluation of the risks associated with offering products and services and its ability and systems to effectively manage those risks - as all DFS-regulated institutions do with regard to all their banking relationships. 
Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, "DFS stands ready to work with our chartered institutions to assist them in moving forward towards helping New York's medical marijuana and industrial hemp businesses operate in a safe and sound manner. New York's financial institutions should provide banking services to these legal businesses, in accordance with established principles and procedures, including customer due diligence and transaction monitoring. In this way, New York's businesses can operate more effectively under the law to serve New Yorkers."
 
New York law permits the cultivation of industrial hemp and federal law permits the growing and cultivation of industrial hemp for certain limited research purposes. As such, the DFS guidance encourages New York State-chartered banks and credit unions to support this development in the State of New York. The DFS guidance provides that any institution that seeks to provide financial services to entities that are or wish to be engaged in the growing or cultivation of industrial hemp should assess and verify the eligibility and authority of the entity for participation in a research program, as authorized under the New York Agriculture and Markets Law. As with any other lending activity, DFS's guidance says that banking institutions should establish and conduct appropriate underwriting and customer due diligence, including verification of eligibility of a research program and other requirements of federal and New York State law.
 
These requirements are consistent with requirements for other lawful businesses to obtain banking relationships, and for financial institutions to operate in a safe and sound manner. 
 
A copy of the guidance can be found here.