By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

Maps Credit Union prepared to return funds held in accounts by marijuana businesses in Oregon after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo in January, a credit union executive stated Monday.

“If we think our members might need more cash than normal, we would prepare by ordering more cash supplies from our account at the (Federal Reserve),” wrote Shane Saunders, Maps chief experience officer, in an email. “We took that action during the eclipse (in August). We also took that action during the revocation of the Cole Memo to be prepared should we needed to disburse funds back to those businesses. Fortunately, those businesses didn’t need their funds back immediately, and we were able to cancel that cash order.”

The Salem-based credit union is one of the few banking institutions to provide account services to legal marijuana businesses in Oregon. The Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy statement, put forth guidelines that allowed states with legal recreational marijuana to stay clear of federal prohibitions.

Similar guidelines were issued in 2014 by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, for banks that provided services to legal marijuana business. Few banks chose to work with marijuana businesses, however, citing the potential liability involved and the added cost of reporting those transactions.

A Maps representative explained the request for additional funds during a marijuana summit convened Friday in Portland by U.S. Attorney Billy Williams. At the summit were representatives of state and federal law enforcement agencies and cannabis businesses, among others, including property owner groups from Southwest and Central Oregon opposed to legalized marijuana. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also attended.

Williams brought attention to the overproduction of marijuana in Oregon that is feeding a black market, and illegal export of cannabis to other states, according to the Associated Press. At the same time, the AP reported, Williams sought to calm fears among the state’s licensed cannabis growers.

Saunders said the cash requested by Maps belongs to its members, not the government. Maps has more than 400 cannabis business accounts that include retailers, producers, processors, wholesalers and laboratories, according to a Jan. 25 fact sheet Saunders provided.

The credit union took in more than $180 million in cash from cannabis businesses last year alone and filed nearly 5,000 reports to FinCEN on cannabis business transactions, according to the information Saunders provided.

The credit union temporarily halted new account applications after Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo on Jan. 4, Saunders wrote.

“We are accepting applications,” he wrote, “but we have a waiting list of approximately 45 days due to the number of applications in the pipeline.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

19479716