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Can a CPA Work for a Marijuana Business?

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The nation has decriminalized drugs in recent years, especially marijuana. Marijuana is now legal in many states. Florida is among 30 states that have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

However, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. This can make it tricky for marijuana dispensaries and related businesses to find vendors to work for them. That’s because there is a risk of getting into legal trouble by working for a company that’s not legal under federal law.

This situation is becoming more and more common for certified public accountants (CPAs). Marijuana dispensaries come into a lot of money and need financial professionals to help them manage their money. At the same time, unethical activity can cause a CPA to lose his or her license.

What options do CPAs have? Will they get in trouble and lose their licenses if they choose to work for a marijuana business? Does it depend on state law?

What the Florida Board of Accountancy Says 

Under Florida Statutes, Section 473.302(8), providing public accounting services to marijuana-related businesses in states where marijuana is legal, and the CPA cannot be convicted of a crime for providing such services, does not constitute a lack of good moral character.

So while it appears that Florida is giving CPAs the go-ahead to work for marijuana businesses, what will the true outcome be? What happens if the business is running illegally? What if the proceeds from the business are being used to fund illegal activity, as is often the case with “drug money?” Will the CPA face punishment or conviction of a crime?

Professional Concerns for CPAs

There is always a concern when there is a disconnect between state and federal law. The law above mentions “good moral character.” Each state defines this differently, so it’s a good idea for Florida CPAs to understand what this phrase means.

What if a CPA does engage in business with a marijuana dispensary or related company, given that such a business violates federal laws? Will there be any consequences? Could the board refuse to renew a CPA’s license? Could they face license suspension or other punishment?

So far, no state boards have punished CPAs who have chosen to work with marijuana businesses. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t face discipline for doing the same thing. If you are faced with such a moral dilemma, you should direct your questions and concerns to the Florida State Board of Accountancy. Get clarification before you agree to the job.

Keep Your License with Help From a Tampa Certified Public Accountant Licensing Lawyer 

It’s important to hold onto your CPA license. Sometimes you will face ethical issues, such as whether or not to perform work for a company that deals with a drug that is still illegal under federal law.

Before agreeing to work for a marijuana dispensary or other company that might create moral issues, get legal advice first. Seek legal representation from the Law Offices of David P. Rankin, P.A. I am a Tampa administrative lawyer who focuses on licensing issues for certified public accountants and other licensed professionals. For a free consultation, contact my office today by calling (813) 968-6633.

Resource:

aicpa.org/Advocacy/State/DownloadableDocuments/MarijuanaCPAsIssueBrief.pdf