Bank of America (BoA) is reportedly terminating its banking relationship with Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), a DEA-registered facility that carries out important marijuana research.
Scottsdale Research Institute is a clinical trial site that among other activities carried out a Phase 2 study of the use of medical cannabis for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Institute’s Sue Sisley, MD has been at the forefront of efforts to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to expand access to marijuana for research, which was previously monopolised by a single university for decades. The quality of this cannabis had been criticised by a number of researchers, including Dr. Sisley.
In 2019, the DEA finally indicated it expand access and then in March 2020 published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, followed by finalised new regulations in December relating to growers wanting to be registered. Then in May this year, it began signing agreements – including preliminary approval for Scottsdale Research Institute.
So, given the history and credibility of the Institute, why did BoA terminate the 10-year banking relationship with SRI? Dr. Sisley isn’t certain – there was little warning and no justification provided in the notice and communications with the bank since haven’t revealed anything.
In comments to Marijuana Moment, Dr. Sisley floats the idea that perhaps marijuana had nothing to do with it; instead the SRI’s recent approval to cultivate psilocybin (magic mushrooms) for research may have played a role
Regardless, the incident highlights the ongoing challenges of banking in the USA where cannabis is involved.
According to a recent article on Green Entrepreneur, 515 U.S. banks and 169 credit unions offered banking services to legal cannabis businesses by the end of last year. While that’s a significant improvement on just a few years ago, more needs to be done to remove the stigma associated with cannabis in financial circles through legislation.
On a positive note – it appears some financial institutions have already signalled they will take SRI on as a client. While all’s well that ends well, the loss of banking facilities is something that no business or organisation wants to face, even if temporarily.