WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner was among those leading the introduction of a bill to provide access to banking services for legal cannabis businesses.
Gardner, a Colorado Republican, and Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon led a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019. Democrat Michael Bennet is among those supporting the bill.
The bill would make it easier for cannabis businesses in states that have legalized recreational or medicinal marijuana, like Colorado, to access banks.
Under current federal law, cannabis businesses are mostly denied access to banking systems because banks that provide them with services can be prosecuted. That means those businesses operate using large amounts of cash, creating a safety risk for the businesses and for the surrounding communities. It also makes it more difficult for state and local governments to collect taxes.
Senator Gardner says the law provides access for legitimate businesses to use basic financial services they need. “We must also take into account the risk to public safety as these businesses are being forced to carry around bags of money to pay for their employees and rent,” Gardner said. “Legal businesses should not be treated like this, and I’m glad that Republicans and Democrats are working together to address this issue.”
“It’s absurd that cannabis business owners in Oregon have to shuttle around gym bags full of cash to take care of their taxes or pay their employees,” said Senator Merkley. “Operating in cash is an invitation to robbery, money laundering, and organized crime. This is a public safety issue, and I hope that this will be the Congress when we build a bipartisan consensus to put this common-sense fix into law.”
The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from:
- Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as a lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
- Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
- Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
- Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.
Last month, the House Financial Services Committee passed a version of the SAFE Banking Act by a bipartisan vote of 45 to 15. On Tuesday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a House subcommittee, “I hope this is something that this committee can on a bipartisan basis work with since there are people on both sides of the aisle that share these concerns.” Mnuchin noted that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has had to build “cash rooms” to accommodate taxes paid by legal cannabis companies.