Marijuana Banking issues make the way to wisconsin legislators

One reason marijuana reform has been stalled to nothing by Republicans over the last decade is simple math, in hours. Floor Time! As soon as the marijuana laws start to reform, they will take up floor time in the legislative session, simple as that. Sure there are many other reasons Republicans have not taken up reform measures and as we can see, much of what is needed is education of the fundamentals, as well as clearing up old stereotypes still blazed into the minds of politicians. But we have to realize that cannabis reform is complex and will take floor time each and every session once it starts. Find me another state that only reformed their marijuana laws once and never had to deal with it again.

I came across an article on that illustrates the point that marijuana reform will end up being discussed in banking committees, housing committee, regulatory committees, tax committees, etc etc… as a new industry emerges in Wisconsin, so will the need for floor time to address this new industry. The article, to me, also points out that by Wisconsin not addressing marijuana reform in our state, our state may now be holding up the industry for other states.

Here is the article that caught my attention. If Wisconsin legislators want to take in marijuana money from out of state and put in our banks for safe keeping while ignoring the industry here, shame on them. If Wisconsin legislators are just trying to actually get some basic fundamentals of marijuana reform in order before the big law change, well then they sure have a funny way of showing it.

The Wisconsin Credit Union League
The Wisconsin Credit Union League

Creating a statute to allow Wisconsin banks to take on customers in the marijuana business would provide clarity for the state’s financial institutions. 

It’s now unclear if a Wisconsin bank could take on an Illinois marijuana dispensary as a customer, for example, explained Wisconsin Bankers Association COO Mike Semmann and WBA Legal Affairs Director Scott Birrenkott. 

Semmann described it as “highly complex, highly risky … and not necessarily in the financial institution’s best interest” to take on a marijuana business in Wisconsin because marijuana is illegal in the state. 

A statutory change in Wisconsin would give banks the certainty to answer if it’s legal to bank a customer in the marijauna business, Birrenkott added. 

Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, asked what impact legalizing marijuana would have on Wisconsin’s banking system during an Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions hearing yesterday. Katsma serves as vice chair of the committee. 

Department of Financial Institutions Deputy Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins said other states have legalized marijuana because they’ve found it poses a problem if there’s no way to handle money that gets exchanged. If marijuana is not legal, banks and credit unions cannot bank those customers and businesses. Gov. Tony Evers in his budget proposed legalizing and taxing pot.

Surrounding states such as Illinois and Michigan have legalized marijuana, giving those financial institutions an unfair advantage near state lines, she noted in her testimony.

“Sometimes the financial institutions worry that they’re going to be outside the lines and they don’t want to be,” Olson-Collins said, adding that a marijuana banking statute, allowing banks to participate, would be “a bit of comfort.”

Wisconsin Credit Union League Vice President of Government Affairs Sarah Wainscott said the discussion has been happening at the federal level for a number of years. 

“It creates a difficult environment when these businesses, and now that we’re seeing these businesses get closer and closer to Wisconsin state lines, don’t have a place to safely put their money,” she said. 

Wainscott recalled a story of businesses in other states renting an armored truck to keep their money. 

“You want to be able to make sure that these businesses have a safe place to do their banking, and so that’s what we would look for in some sort of cannabis or marijuana banking options.”

Committee Chair Rep. Cindi Duchow, R-Town of Delafield, indicated the committee would further the discussion “at some point.”

Authors Notes:

A new name to marijuana reform is Rep. Cindi Duchow from the Town of Delafield.  This Republican legislator looked like she was going to sign onto medical marijuana reform in the 2019-20 session.  She came out of the gates early and helped author a bill to protect firearms owners who are also medical marijuana patients .   Rep. Duchow has not co-sponsored any additional legislation at this point and although labeled potential supporter for medical cannabis legislation. (2019 – Assembly Bill 236 Regarding firearms and confidentiality of medical marijuana patients.)

Unfortunately Republican Terry Katsma from Oostburg has not sponsored any marijuana reform legislation since being elected to the State Assembly in 2014 and has not been very public about the issue of marijuana reform.  During 2019 the Assembly Republicans pre-filed a bill for the 2020 legislative session to create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin (Assembly Bill 750) which Assembly Rep. Katsma did not sponsor. 


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