Acknowledging hemp ‘uncertainty,’ FDIC chief says banking rules sufficient

Banks may be hesitant to serve hemp companies because of confusion about marijuana laws, the top U.S. bank insurer says.

But that doesn’t mean financial institutions should require a new law guaranteeing hemp banking, said Jelena McWilliams, head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), which insures deposits.

McWilliams was asked about hemp banking during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee. The exchange was first reported by Marijuana Moment.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in this space … because of state and federal laws differing on marijuana versus hemp throughout the United States,” McWilliams told Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican who asked about hemp banking, which he said has gotten more challenging since hemp was fully legalized late last year.

McWilliams said the FDIC is “conducting extensive examiner training” to ensure bank examiners understand that hemp is legal and should have access to banking services.

But she added that a 2014 memo from the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) already gives lenders “a clear path for banks” to serve both hemp and marijuana clients.

McWilliams added that banks confused about whether a client is in the hemp or marijuana industries should file “suspicious activity reports” that are already used for marijuana clients.

“In reality, (banks) should be making sure that legitimate businesses have access to credit,” McWilliams said.