Ohio Banking Industry Deals Blow To Campaign For Marijuana Legalization

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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The push for marijuana legalization in Ohio has been dealt a blow by the state’s financial establishment.

The Ohio Bankers League (OBL) voted to oppose Issue 3 that would legalize both recreational and medical marijuana in the state. OBL, which has 210 members, fears a clash between the federal and state laws surrounding marijuana regulation.

“Marijuana is illegal at the federal level, and handling proceeds connected to marijuana-related businesses also remains illegal – regardless of state law,” said Mike Adelman, CEO of the Ohio Bankers League.

Issue 3 “would put the Ohio banking industry in an untenable position and would render the marijuana industry an all-cash business, creating public safety issues and money laundering concerns,” he added. The group would reconsider its position if federal laws were reformed.

The ballot initiative, which will be decided Nov. 3, would also permit Ohioans to grow small amounts of marijuana in their homes while commercial growing would be limited to 10 sites.

Ohio banks could fall foul of a host of federal laws if they served marijuana businesses including the Bank Secrecy Act, U.S. Controlled Substances Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the Patriot Act.

Pro-legalization groups tried to convince the industry group that it would have nothing to fear by offering services to marijuana businesses, should Issue 3 pass. “The Yes on 3 Amendment does not require Ohio banks to take the billions of dollars generated from Ohio’s regulated marijuana industry. Therefore, the Ohio Bankers League has no legitimate concerns to deposit,” said Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio.

As things stand, ResponsibleOhio appear to be on the winning side of public opinion with a Quinnipiac University Poll showing that 52 percent of Ohioans favored legalizing marijuana for personal use and a staggering 84 percent support for medical marijuana.

The Ohio banking group follows in the steps of Wall Street’s biggest financial institutions that announced it will steer clear of providing services to medical cannabis firms. The banks included Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Key Bank and TD Bank. (RELATED: New York’s Financial Elite Break Bad News To Marijuana Businesses)

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Guy Bentley