Jamaica plans to lobby the U.S. government to allow federally regulated banks to handle money generated by the marijuana industry.
American banks are banned from accepting any money that comes from “criminal activity” under federal law. While cannabis is legal in many states for recreational or medicinal purposes, or both, it remains illegal at the federal level.
Any banks accepting business from cannabis retailers will be unable to receive federal deposit insurance, so they generally give the industry a wide berth.
This has caused a major headache for cannabis producers across the U.S., as it forces them to deal mainly in cash. This puts staff and customers at risk of violent crime and it also leads to states like California and Colorado missing out on revenue from taxes.
It has also had a significant knock-on effect in other countries. Jamaican banks have corresponding banks in the U.S., which are federally regulated, and they would end the agreement if the Jamaican bank is engaged in any activity that is illegal under U.S. federal law, and that naturally includes selling cannabis.
Jamaica has been reluctant to roll out a regulated export market, as it does not want to upset the U.S. government, which it relies on for trade and tourism. Yet tentative steps have begun and Jamaican firms have signed a few low-key contracts to supply Canadian producers.
Now Jamaica plans to become more assertive. Audley Shaw, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, said the Jamaican government will use all of its diplomatic channels to petition the U.S. Treasury Department to loosen financial laws and permit banks to work with the cannabis industry, which is becoming increasingly prevalent and powerful across the globe and in America.
Attorneys General from 33 states wrote to Congress last month to urge it to approve a proposal that would open the doors of the U.S. banking system to the legal marijuana industry. “This is simple: not incorporating an $8.3 billion industry into our banking system is hurting our public safety and economy,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Shaw said he stands in full solidarity with Becerra and his peers, as the rules have prevented Jamaica from creating a lucrative medical cannabis industry. He fears it will be left behind by rivals, as the likes of Colombia, Israel, and Portugal are motoring ahead with major cultivation projects.