Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | Time: 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Miami Airport Hilton, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive, Miami, FL 33126
Moderator: Carl A. Fornaris, Co-Chair, Greenberg Traurig
Panelists: Matthew Ginder, Esq, Senior Counsel, Greenspoon Marder
Lloyd DeVaux, President & CEO, Sunstate Bank of Florida
Peter Forand, Chief, Money Laundering Section, United States Attorneys’ Offices
(Miami, FL) – On Wednesday, February 19, 2020, South Florida Banking Institute (SFBI) held a Cannabis panel to explore developments in federal and state laws and regulations, as well as the approach that has been taken by the bank regulatory agencies, including the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). As the expansion of states legalizing some form of cannabis continues to grow, panelists Matthew Ginder, Lloyd Devaux, and Peter Forand brought their expertise and explored this hot topic. Moderator and past SFBI Board Member, Carl Fornaris joined panelists to facilitate the event.
As the panel began, attendees were reminded of the fact that Florida does not currently have any recreational medical marijuana laws in place. There was an attempt made by Make it Legal Florida to garner 700,000 signatures with the proposal to make recreational marijuana legal for the 2020 ballot but was unsuccessful. Matthew Ginder stated “it’s not a question on if, but when recreational marijuana will become legalized”. Lloyd Devaux alluded that the proposal may make it to the 2022 ballot for elections.
To dig deeper, Ginder stated that the difference between marijuana and hemp is the tetrahydrocannabinol content, otherwise more generally known as THC. Hemp must not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. With hemp formerly classified as a Schedule I substance, hemp cultivation is currently only authorized at the University of Florida and FAMU under current legislation. Cultivation with the intent to sell will not occur until USDA approves a fully implemented hemp program. Marijuana is currently scheduled as a Schedule I drug in the state of Florida. With Florida joining 33 other states in legalizing medical marijuana, legislators, financial institutions, and the public are increasingly interested in the positive and social economic impacts of marijuana legalization.
With the ongoing federal prohibition, bankers are weary of federal criminal statutes. In 2019, 563 banks and 163 credit unions were banking Marijuana Related Businesses (MRBs). The number has grown significantly since 2018. While bankers are still weary of the concern of MRBs, banks must continue to assess the risk of taking on a cannabis business as a client. Lloyd Devaux went over the processes involved in preparing a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) when dealing with MRBs. Peter Forand concluded with his expertise on money laundering and red flags as a Department of Justice prosecutor.