The Marijuana Policy Project, one of the country's most notable cannabis advocacy groups, was recently notified by PNC Bank that their accounts would be closed due to their involvement in the cannabis industry. The federal government prevents banks from handling any money connected with the cultivation or sale of an illegal drug, but the MPP is strictly an advocacy group, and does not grow, process, distribute, or handle cannabis.
MPP chief operating officer Nick Field said that a representative from PNC contacted him last month and notified him that an audit of their accounts revealed that they received donations from canna-businesses that do directly handle marijuana. “They told me it is too risky. The bank can’t assume the risk,” Field said. The bank has handled the organization's accounts since 1995.
Many advocates believe that PNC may have been motivated to close these accounts due to recent promises by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on cannabis legalization. Recently, Sessions sent a memo asking Congress to rescind protections that prevent the Department of Justice from prosecuting state-legal medical canna-businesses.
However, cannabis advocacy groups believe that banks are overreacting, because the Justice Department has never investigated a bank for dealing with state-legal cannabis firms. Field also noted that advocacy groups like the MPP are completely legal entities, and already under strict scrutiny from the IRS. “We have yearly audits. We are compliant with the IRS,” he said. “It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”