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306. Risky Business: Banking & Finance Issues in the Growing Legal Marijuana Industry

DATE: Friday, July 21, 2017      TIME: 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
LOCATION: City Hall, Committee Room 119

As we all know, marijuana for medical purposes is legal, to one extent or another, in several states across the country, and marijuana for recreational purposes is slowly but surely gaining acceptance as well. While there is a difference in how the two types are perceived and regulated, they share one thing in common: money. Last summer, the non-partisan Tax Foundation estimated that a mature marijuana industry could generate up to $28 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments. One big question facing both industry players and taxing agencies is where to park all that money. Federal banking laws prohibit banks from accepting illegally obtained funds. But what does “illegal” mean, when marijuana is illegal under federal law but legal under state law, and certain federal agencies are creating paths for banks to provide services? What is a grower or a retail dispensary or a state or local government supposed to do with the cash it receives from marijuana sales and taxes? Put it under a mattress? Buy a really big safe? And on the flipside, how is a bank to assess the risk of handling funds generated by legal marijuana sales? This dynamic panel of industry, government and banking experts will discuss how everyone is dealing with these thorny issues now and what potential legal and practical fixes could be on the horizon.

CLE accreditation pending. Click here to download CLE materials.


Senior Deputy City Attorney, City of Vernon

Brian Byun

Brian Byun is a Senior Deputy City Attorney for the City of Vernon, an industrial city located just south of downtown Los Angeles. Brian focuses mainly on providing legal advice to the City Council and the City’s various departments, including administration, finance, and public utilities; drafting, negotiation and review of all of the City’s commercial contracts; and drafting the City’s laws, including its local regulations on cannabis businesses. Brian is a recently appointed member of the League of California Cities City Attorneys Department’s Cannabis Regulation Committee, which, among other things, advises and lobbies the State Legislature on various legal and policy aspects of proposed state-wide cannabis laws. Prior to joining the City of Vernon, Brian worked for various law firms, including Cooley and Baker & McKenzie, where his practice focused on corporate restructuring, bankruptcy, and insolvency-related litigation. He received his J.D. from The George Washington University School of Law, an M.A. in Japanese Literature from Columbia University, and his B.A. from Yale University.


Courtney Jensen

Vice President, State Government Affairs, California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues


Courtney Jensen is Vice President of State Government Affairs for the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, where she represents over 300 credit unions in California and Nevada and their more than ten million members. Courtney began at the Leagues in 2014 and her responsibilities include representing credit unions before the California and Nevada Legislatures as well as regulators and departments in both states. She advocates on behalf of credit unions to help protect and promote the credit union industry in California and Nevada. Courtney also represents the members of the California Credit Union League as a member of the Treasurer's Cannabis Banking Working Group, which is charged with finding practical and timely ways to address the state-federal conflict. Prior to joining the Leagues, Courtney served as Legislative Director to California State Assembly Member Ian Calderon focusing on banking and finance, insurance, business, education, and labor issues, and as Legislative Aide to California State Majority Leader Charles Calderon focusing on similar issues. Courtney has also served on the election campaigns of Assembly Members and State Senators. Courtney holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

Principal, Founder, Greenbridge Corporate Counsel

Khurshid Khoja

Khurshid Khoja is Principal and Founder of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, a minority-owned and woman-managed business law firm, representing clientele in California, Washington, and Hawaii from across numerous sectors in the legal cannabis industry, on regulatory, legislative, contract, intellectual property, finance, corporate, securities and competition law, mergers and acquisitions, and other general transactional legal matters. Khurshid is an experienced advocate and business lawyer, and advises clients employing his experience from multiple highly-regulated industries (including cannabis, insurance and energy). Khurshid serves on the Board of Directors of the National Cannabis Industry Association and on NCIA's Policy Council, which advises the NCIA Board on federal legislative and political strategy to reform federal cannabis laws and protect the legal cannabis industry. Khurshid also serves as a founding board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association, and has served as CCIA's outside General Counsel since August 2014. In that capacity, he also represents CCIA on California State Treasurer John Chiang's Cannabis Banking Working Group, which is exploring state and federal solutions to make banking accessible to the legal cannabis industry. Khurshid was President of the Class of 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and is an alumnus of The University of Chicago and DePaul University.

Fiona Ma

Board Member (2nd District), California Board of Equalization

Elected to the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) in November 2014, Fiona represents nearly ten million Californians in the 23 counties that run from the Oregon border to Santa Barbara in the Second Equalization District. As one of the few Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) to serve on the BOE, Fiona is a strong voice for businesses and taxpayers – taking the lead in clearing the haze around the cannabis industry by holding informative stakeholder meetings discussing key issues – transportation, track and trace of cannabis products, and the lack of banking services. Fiona served as the Chair of the BOE in 2016 and is the current Chair of the BOE’s Legislative Committee. Fiona is instrumental in BOE discussions about helping industry business owners pay their taxes safely and efficiently, generating innovative ideas for an industry lacking banking services, and lends her expertise to California Treasurer Chiang’s Cannabis Banking Working Group meetings. Fiona represented District 4 on the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors from 2002-2006. During her tenure in the Legislature, Fiona represented the 12 th Assembly District from 2006-2012; served as Majority Whip, and was then the first Asian-American female Assembly Speaker pro Tempore in California history. She is also a member of the California Film Commission and Aspen Institute’s 2009 Class of Aspen-Rodel Fellows. Fiona received her B.S. in Accounting from the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), her M.S. in Taxation from Golden Gate University (SF), and an MBA in Business Taxation from Pepperdine University. She has been licensed in California as a CPA since 1992.

Sahar Ayinehsazian

Associate, Vincente Sederberg LLC

Sahar Ayinehsazian is an Associate at Vicente Sederberg LLC, a law firm with extensive expertise in all facets of the cannabis industry. Previously, Sahar was the Director of Regulatory and Governmental Affairs at PayQwick, a compliance-based electronic hub that facilitates state legal cannabis commerce. Sahar has extensive experience in cannabis banking, compliance and regulations throughout the country and has helped various states formulate their cannabis regulations. She has also served as a trusted advisor to numerous federal legislators on issues surrounding cannabis banking. Her articles on cannabis regulations and cannabis banking have been widely published in both cannabis and banking publications. Sahar received her Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in 2015 and is an alumnus of University of California, San Diego.