Chelsie Spencer Featured on “Cannabis and Credit Unions: The Opportunities and Risks”

Ritter Spencer Cheng Attorney Chelsie Spencer is featured on “Cannabis and Credit Unions: The Opportunities and Risks” podcast with Robert McGarvey, who recently interviewed Ms. Spencer on issues facing credit unions seeking to service cannabis accounts. Mr. McGarvey is an expert in credit union technology and frequently covers issues affecting the credit union industry.

On Part One of “Cannabis and Credit Unions: The Opportunities and Risks,” Mrs. Spencer and other cannabis attorneys, a cannabis lobbyist, and credit union consultants discuss some of the issues and regulatory hurdles for credit unions servicing cannabis accounts. Currently, there are around 110 credit unions offering services to marijuana related businesses.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Despite the federal prohibition, many states have enacted recreational use statutes that permit use of marijuana recreationally and many also have medicinal use programs that permit use of marijuana in accordance with the state’s medicinal use statute.
Caught in between the tension between federal and state laws are banking and credit institutions. Technically, by servicing a marijuana account, the credit union’s managers, employees, and representatives may be aiding and abetting a federal credit. What has the federal government done to provide guidance on this issue? Check out Part One of the podcast to learn more:

Here in Texas, the Texas Compassionate Use Act was passed by our legislature in 2015. It allows patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to receive recommendations for “low-THC cannabis,” generally in the form of cannabidiol oil. The Texas Compassionate Use Act defines low-THC cannabis as “the plant Cannabis sativa L., and any part of that plant or any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, preparation, resin, or oil of that plant that contains (A) not more than 0.5 percent by weight of tetrahydrocannabinols; and (B) not less than 10 percent by weight of cannabidiol.

To receive a doctor’s recommendation for low-THC cannabis in Texas, the patient must be a permanent Texas resident suffering from intractable epilepsy. The patient must have tried at least two FDA-approved drugs or treatments that did not work and they must get approval from two separate doctors. Under the Compassionate Use Act, doctors must specialize in epilepsy or neurology and must be certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology or the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology. Doctors must apply and register  with the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (“CURT”). Registered physicians may be found by searching the Texas Department of Public Safety’s CURT database online.

We hope that the Texas Legislature expands the list of qualifying conditions under the Texas Compassionate Use Act, in addition to granting for licenses for more dispensing organizations. Currently, Texas only has three licensed dispensing organizations in the State: Compassionate Use Act: Cansortium Texas, Compassionate Cultivation, and Surterra Texas. Because expanding the list of qualified conditions would likely lead to more demand, our Legislature needs to instruct the Texas Department of Safety, the agency responsible for regulating the Texas Compassionate Use Act program, to permit additional dispensing organization licenses.

Ritter Spencer Cheng has assisted many Dallas area hemp and CBD businesses in securing bank accounts for their business. There are only a handful of banks and credit unions here in Texas that will service hemp and cannabidiol accounts and even fewer that work with the licensed dispensing organizations. As discussed in the podcast, these dispensing organizations face many hurdles in attempting to secure a bank account or credit union account. Though our state legislature may attempt to remedy this, the federal government must act to to permit banking institutions and credit unions to service marijuana related business accounts without fear of government interference. As long as we have no federal statute exempting banking from punishment for servicing marijuana accounts, financial institutions will continue to face high-risk in servicing cannabis bank accounts.