January 04, 2018

DoJ rescinds marijuana enforcement directives, could impact CUs' BSA compliance

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions yesterday rescinded directives that had instructed federal prosecutors to ease marijuana enforcement in states that have legalized the substance. The change in federal drug enforcement priorities creates additional legal and compliance challenges for credit unions serving marijuana-related businesses.

Two of the rescinded directives include the Cole memos, which were issued in August 2013 and February 2014 by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole to address enforcement in states that had legalized and regulated marijuana. Based on the Cole memos' enforcement posture, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued guidance to clarify Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) expectations for financial institutions providing services to marijuana-related businesses.

As FinCEN's BSA guidance depended heavily on these now-retracted enforcement directives, the legal and compliance risks associated with serving marijuana-related businesses become more uncertain.

NAFCU has resources available on its Compliance Blog and has explored the issue in its monthly Compliance Monitor newsletter to help credit unions understand the compliance risk of serving marijuana businesses. The association's compliance team will provide members with an update on the rescinded directives' implications next week.