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Cornerstone Addresses Concern and Confusion over Oklahoma’s New Marijuana Law
Thursday, September 27, 2018 7:00 AM

In June, Oklahoma voters answered at least one question—they like the idea of marijuana being available for medical purposes. But since its passage, State Question 788 has created more questions than answers. One of the biggest is what to do about the burgeoning number of cannabis-related businesses searching for financial services. The answer appears elusive.

To address the myriad questions and concerns coming from Oklahoma credit unions, league staff conducted two seminars Tuesday to offer a more in-depth look at the many challenges and potential pitfalls associated with the cannabis banking business.

Cannabis-related businesses might now be legal in Oklahoma, but financial institutions face a plethora of challenges if they make the decision to provide banking services. Simply put, credit unions choosing to provide financial services to the new industry run the very real risk of running afoul of federal law, a scenario with serious consequences.

During meetings in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Suzanne Yashewski, Cornerstone’s compliance and regulatory counsel, provided a comprehensive look at the many risks inherent to the cannabis banking business—risks that will remain, Yashewski says, until laws change on the federal level.

Questions from credit unions are not confined to financial services according to Nate Webb, executive director of the Oklahoma Credit Union Association.

“There are lots of questions about the impact on HR policy and other potential issues impacting Oklahoma businesses,” said Webb. “The problem is, medical marijuana was approved through initiative petition not legislation. Consequently, approval came before comprehensive rules and regulations were adopted. There are lots of unanticipated issues popping up every day.”

Since passage of SQ788 a bipartisan, bicameral legislative committee has conducted weekly hearings with the goal of presenting recommendations as a framework to develop comprehensive legislation.

Webb said he is closely monitoring the committee’s progress to determine any potential impact on Oklahoma credit unions.