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Regulatory, banking symposium held for medical cannabis industry

Though medical marijuana is legal in Alabama, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug under federal law. This classification makes traditional banking services unavailable to cannabis-related businesses.

To help educate would-be business owners, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Association hosted an inaugural Medical Cannabis Banking and Regulatory Symposium. The meeting Tuesday brought together regulators involved in policing the future industry, state financial officers who envision an economic benefit to Alabama, and companies learning about the growing opportunities. 

Leaders affirmed that navigating the complex landscape of regulation and financing within the sector is not something that cannot be done alone. 

Mike Hill, superintendent of the Alabama Banking Department told the group, “The banks will be regulating. You’ve the Agriculture Department regulating, you’ve got the Department of Justice, you’ve the DEA, the ABI – everybody’s looking at you make sure you’re trying to do everything right, then you have commission who will be looking at you closely.” 

RELATED: 4 in 5 Alabama voters support medical cannabis 

The banking aspect is also one of the most complicated challenges in the medical marijuana industry. 

“The banking industry is part of your industry,” Hill said. “It’s a complicated process. You’ve got to breach your problems, you’ve got to look out ahead of time at risk. If you don’t, we’ll come in and punish you for it.

“That’s just the way it works.”

Traditional banking services are largely unavailable to cannabis-related businesses because federal laws regulate banking. As a result, many such businesses have struggled to find banking services, often forced to operate largely in cash, which leads to security and operational issues. 

Alabama’s Medical Cannabis Commission has the advantage of looking to other states to set policy and award licenses based on prior success stories. 

On Monday, the commission is set to consider the following licenses

  • 12 cultivator applications
  • 11 processor applications
  • 18 dispensary applications
  • 9 secure transporter applications
  • 2 state testing laboratory applications
  • 38 integrated facility applications

The symposium featured an opportunity for businesses and associations to learn from state leaders and experts in the emerging medical cannabis industry. Speakers included:

  • Glenda Allred, State of Alabama Deputy Treasurer
  • Brandy Boone, General Counsel of Medical Association of the State of Alabama
  • Mark Fowler, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Insurance
  • Mike Hill, Superintendent of State Banking Department
  • Caryn Cope Hughes, Senior Vice President of Alabama Commercial, Lending Executive of Valley Bank
  • John McMillan, Executive Director of Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission
  • Mary Martin Mitchell, Executive Counsel of Alabama Department of Revenue

AMCA’s Executive Director Patrick Lindsey said the symposium’s intent was to “serve as an open forum and networking opportunity for those interested in entering this new sector to connect and learn more about the banking, revenue, and regulatory aspects of our state’s medical cannabis industry.”

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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