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美國國會審議新銀行法案,有望激活大麻產業

Rey Mashayekhi 2019年04月27日

目前大麻行業依然受到金融方面的限制,這一局面有望改變。

美國大麻行業進入了繁榮期。目前已經有10個州和華盛頓將娛樂用大麻合法化,大量含有大麻二酚的產品也出現在美國各地的店鋪中,比如添加大麻二酚的護膚霜、蛋白棒和紅茶菌飲料。

但說到大多數公司都習以為常的金融服務,大麻相關企業就會發現自己仍然被排除在主流之外。按照美國法律,大麻依然是一級管制藥品,這就意味著在為大麻公司提供資金方面,大多數銀行仍然會小心翼翼,以免觸犯聯邦法規(一個很好的例子就是,本周有消息稱加拿大主要大麻企業Canopy Growth已經就收購美國大麻公司Acerage Holdings達成協議,收購價為34億美元。前提條件是:只有在美國將大麻合法化以后,此項交易才能付諸實施)。

實際上,在企業貸款、支薪服務和電子支付方式(包括信用卡,大多數藥房都不接受信用卡付款)等諸多方面,大麻行業依然受到限制。不光是直接接觸大麻的企業,與大麻行業有關的輔助型公司也是如此,大麻相關收入有可能使其被銀行拒之門外。

科羅拉多州大麻二酚產品公司Cannovia的首席執行官布萊恩·鮑姆表示:“金融服務業真的不愿意在這個領域冒任何風險,無論是傳統銀行賬戶還是貿易服務,甚至包括保險。”他回憶說,Cannovia在購買董事和高管責任保險時就遇到了困難。他們接觸了23家保險公司,“其中21家甚至拒絕就此報價”。

在大麻的諸多用途已經變得合法的州,一些大麻公司轉而找上了愿意幫助它們的政府特許信用合作社,以此取代大型全國性銀行和金融機構。如若不然,許多大麻公司就會發現自己不得不靠現金運轉,同時又坐擁大量紙幣。這種情況顯然存在安全風險和不便之處。

但美國國會正在審議的兩項法案有望扭轉上述局面,而且有可能讓金融機構向急需銀行服務的大麻公司敞開大門。

上個月,眾議院金融服務委員會在最近的一次審議中批準了《安全和公平執法銀行法案》。該法案六年前問世,現已獲得民主、共和兩黨議員的廣泛支持,看來有望在眾議院進行投票。眾議院審議的這項法案和本周在參議院提出的相應法案旨在為大麻合法化的州中跟大麻公司打交道的金融機構提供“安全港”,以免它們因為接受這種聯邦政府禁止且管制的藥品帶來的交易所得而遭到聯邦政府部門起訴。美國財政部部長史蒂文·努欽等人已經對該法案表示支持。

與此同時,最近重新提出的《委托州政府以強化第十修正案法案》,簡稱《STATES法案》正打算從另一個角度來解決同樣的問題。《STATES法案》也得到了兩黨議員的廣泛支持,其目的是修訂1970年通過的藥物管制法。該管制法將大麻列為一級管制藥品,《STATES法案》則是要限制聯邦政府機構針對大麻已合法化的州中的個人和企業執行1970年藥物管制法的能力。

司法部部長威廉·巴爾上周在參議院某個分委員會發言時表示,他將支持允許各州“自行作出決定”的措施。他還說,自己更喜歡“《STATES法案》提出的方法,而不是現行措施”。

仍有污名

當然,上述兩項法案均未實現大多數大麻行業觀察人士和參與者的愿望,那就是不再將大麻列為聯邦政府一類管制藥品(兩位民主黨總統候選人——參議員科里·布克和眾議員圖爾西·賈巴德今年均以此為目的提出了各自的議案)。但這兩項法案均從法律角度闡明了金融機構擔心觸犯聯邦法規的問題,從而有望改善合法大麻企業運營能力受到制約的現狀。

AmeriCann擁有并經營著大麻種植園和大麻加工廠,該公司的首席執行官蒂姆·基奧認為:“聯邦禁令帶來的不確定性讓銀行態度謹慎,它們擔心的不是大麻,而是那條禁令。我們和傳統銀行人士溝通過,他們不反對大麻……[讓他們敬而遠之的]是州法令和聯邦法規之間的沖突。”

到目前為止,銀行業一直對國會調整相關監管法規的工作顯得很熱心。美國銀行家協會在寫給國會的信中表示該組織支持這兩項法案。該協會的總裁兼首席執行官羅伯·尼古拉斯將眾議院金融服務委員會上個月通過《安全和公平執法銀行法案》的消息稱為“重要的一步,其作用是向州和聯邦大麻法規沖突所困擾的金融機構闡明監管和法律問題”。

但并不是所有和大麻行業有關的人都看好上述法案獲得國會批準的前景及其成為法律后的效果。為大麻公司安排金融服務的中介機構FINCANN的首席執行官納撒尼爾·古里安說,他認為《安全和公平執法銀行法案》“今年獲得批準的幾率可能不到50%。也就是說明年該法案沒有任何機會”,因為2020年大選前“政治熱度將上升”。

此外,古里安還認為,許多金融機構的董事會偏保守而且風險意識強,此項法案無法消除大麻話題在他們眼中的污名。他說,有可能促使其轉變觀念的唯一措施是“不再將大麻列為一類管制藥品”。

洛杉磯律師事務所Snell & Wilmer的一位律師喬希·施奈德曼為大麻行業客戶提供咨詢服務,他也指出,當前對《安全和公平執法銀行法案》的審議仍未觸及眾多灰色地帶,比如說,如果銀行沒有藥房等大麻相關業務的經營牌照,它們是否可以取消某類抵押品的贖回權。

同時,如果聯邦政府不對大麻重新歸類,美國大麻公司就依然無法像加拿大Tilray等外國同類企業那樣利用公開資本市場。Tilray于去年7月完成了價值1.53億美元的IPO,成為第一家在美國證交所上市的大麻企業。

不過,對一個目前被掐斷最基本金融服務供應的行業來說,幾乎可以肯定上述法案朝著正確的方向邁出了一步。正如施奈德曼所說:“現在我的大多數客戶都沒有銀行賬戶。”

如果能順利獲得此類服務,美國大麻公司的地位就有可能上升到前所未有的水平。(財富中文網)

譯者:Charlie

審校:夏林

These are high times for the American cannabis industry. Recreational marijuana is now legalized in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and myriad products containing non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD)—think CBD-infused skin creams, protein bars and kombucha—have found their way to storefronts across the nation.

But when it comes to receiving the kind of banking services that most businesses take for granted, pot-related business continue to find themselves cast adrift from the mainstream. The fact that marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under U.S. law means that most banks continue to be wary of financing the cannabis industry, lest they fall afoul of federal regulations. (Case in point: the news this week that Canada’s Canopy Growth had reached a deal to buy U.S. cannabis company Acerage Holdings for $3.4 billion. The catch? The deal will only go through if and when the U.S. legalizes marijuana.)

Indeed, the pot business remains handcuffed when it comes to accessing everything from business loans to payroll services to electronic payment methods (including credit cards, which aren’t accepted at most dispensaries). Not only does this apply to companies who directly “touch the plant” but also ancillary businesses indirectly associated with the industry, who risk being cut off by their banks for receiving cannabis-related revenue.

“There’s a real aversion by the financial services industry in taking any risk at all in this space—whether it’s traditional bank accounts, merchant services, even insurance” says Brian Baum, CEO of CBD product company Cannovia. He recalls the Colorado-based company’s difficult process in finding a directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance carrier; of the 23 different insurers Cannovia applied to, “21 declined to even bid on the policy.”

In lieu of major national banks and financial institutions, some cannabis businesses have resorted to state-chartered credit unions willing to serve them in states where various uses of marijuana are now legal. Otherwise, many companies find themselves having to operate as cash businesses sitting on large quantities of paper money—a situation that obviously comes with its share of safety risks and inconveniences.

But a pair of bills currently working their way through Congress promise to alleviate the situation, potentially opening the doors for financial institutions to provide cannabis companies with much-needed banking services.

Six years after it was first introduced, the most recent iteration of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was approved last month by the House Financial Services Committee and, having secured widespread bipartisan support, appears poised for a floor vote by the House of Representatives. Both the House bill and a companion bill introduced in the Senate this week seek to provide a “safe harbor” for financial institutions working with cannabis-related businesses in states where they’re legal—protecting them from federal prosecution for accepting proceeds from transactions involving a federally prohibited, scheduled substance. The measure has already drawn support from the likes of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Meanwhile, the recently reintroduced Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act, better known as the STATES Act, tries to address the same problem from a different angle. That bill, which has also gained significant bipartisan support, would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970—which designated marijuana as a Schedule I substance—to restrict federal enforcement of the CSA against individuals and companies in states where cannabis is legal.

Speaking before a Senate subcommittee last week, Attorney General William Barr indicated that he would support such a measure allowing states to “make their own decisions”—noting that he would prefer “the approach taken by the STATES Act than where we currently are.”

Still A Stigma

Of course, neither bill does what most cannabis industry observers and participants would like to see: that is, lift the federal prohibition on marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. (Two Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, have each floated their own bills this year that would look to do just that.) But both measures promise to bring relief to a situation that has hindered the ability of legitimate cannabis businesses to operate, by providing legal clarity to financial institutions concerned about falling afoul of federal regulations.

“With the overhang of federal prohibition, banks are wary—not wary about cannabis, they’re wary about prohibition,” according to AmeriCann CEO Tim Keogh, whose company owns and operates marijuana cultivation and processing facilities. “We talk to traditional bankers and they’re not against cannabis…it’s the conflict between state and federal regulations [that keeps them away].”

So far, the banking industry has expressed enthusiasm for this regulatory push on Capitol Hill. The American Bankers Association (ABA) has written letters to lawmakers throwing the industry group’s support behind both the SAFE Banking and STATES acts. ABA president and CEO Rob Nichols greeted the news of the SAFE Banking Act’s passage through the House Financial Services Committee last month as “an important step forward in providing regulatory and legal clarity for financial institutions caught in the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws.”

But not everyone associated with the cannabis industry is bullish on the proposed legislation’s chances of making it through Congress, nor its effectiveness should it be passed into law. FINCANN CEO Nathaniel Gurien, whose firm acts as an intermediary in arranging financial services for cannabis companies, says he thinks the SAFE Banking Act “probably has a less than even chance of passing this year—which means it has no chance next year as things heat up politically” in advance of the 2020 elections.

In addition, Gurien argues, the law won’t dispel the stigma that the conservative-leaning, risk-minded boards of many financial institutions have toward the topic of marijuana. The only measure that could prompt such a shift in thinking, he says, is “de-scheduling cannabis as a Schedule I drug.”

Josh Schneiderman, an attorney at Los Angeles-based law firm Snell & Wilmer who advises clients in the cannabis industry, also notes that there are still numerous gray areas that the current iteration of the SAFE Banking bill does not address—such as whether banks would be in a position to foreclose on certain types of collateral if they don’t have a license to operate a marijuana-related business such as a dispensary.

And absent any federal rescheduling of marijuana, U.S.-based cannabis companies still won’t be able to tap the public capital markets like some of their foreign-based counterparts—such as Canada-based Tilray, which became the first cannabis company to make an initial public offering on a U.S. stock exchange after its $153 million IPO last July.

Still, the legislation will almost certainly be a step in the right direction for an industry currently choked off from the most basic of financial services. As Schneiderman notes, “Most of my clients these days don’t have a bank account.”

Should they succeed in gaining access to those kinds of services, American cannabis companies could get to a higher place than ever before.

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