Guam bankers seek to ease restrictions on working with cannabis businesses

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Banks on island want to be included in lobbying efforts by the American Banking Association to ease the restrictions on banks working with cannabis-related businesses, or CRBs.

Members of the Guam Bankers Association (GBA) are supportive of the cannabis legalization policy adopted by Guam leaders and they want to be allowed to do business with CRBs legally, GBA outgoing president Phillip Flores said.

Flores, who is also the president of BankPacific, said GBA members held a meeting and discussed among other items the business of banking cannabis-related businesses.

“The GBA was very clear in their discussions that the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana are actions taken by or on behalf of our community and all member banks stand with our community in these decisions,” Flores stated.

Members of the GBA have been corresponding with Rob Nichols, president and chairman of the American Banking Association (ABA), asking that Guam be included in all lobbying efforts by the ABA to ease the restrictions on banks working with CRBs.

“We’re going to be monitoring the progress in the states. As I mentioned next month, we’re going to have a directors’ college presented by the FDIC and that’s on the agenda. I think it’ll take up a lot of the agenda,” Flores said.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has established guidelines for financial institutions who receive cannabis deposits, but this is still considered illegal and is therefore classified as money laundering.

“The guidelines you see right now are like ‘I’m holding a gun to your head, try it’ instead of a ‘let me hold your hand and help you’,” Flores said.

He added that GBA believes federal elected officials and banking regulators will continue to evolve their respective stands on the cannabis industry and its members look forward to the day when the guidelines for banking cannabis will allow GBA members to fully embrace the new cannabis industry.

Election

The GBA members also elected the following officers for the year: Edward Untalan of FHB, president; Byron Evaristo of BankPacific, vice president; Mark Tokito of Bank of Hawaii, treasurer; and Joaquin Cook of Bank of Guam, secretary.

GBA also voted to donate $10,000 to the Guam Contractors Association to help the Contractors Association continue their fight to bring more construction workers into Guam and not just for the military buildup but for construction in the civilian sector as well.

Members of the Guam Bankers Association are ANZ Guam, Bank of Guam, Bank of Hawaii, BankPacific, First Commercial Bank and First Hawaiian Bank.