Bennet, Gardner Help Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Provide Access to Banking Services for Legal Marijuana Businesses

Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner today joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to introduce the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015, a bill to ensure that legal marijuana businesses can access banking services.

Currently, marijuana businesses operating under state laws that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana have been mostly denied access to the banking system because banks that provide them services can be prosecuted under federal law. Without the ability to access bank accounts, accept credit cards, or write checks, businesses must operate using large amounts of cash. This creates safety risks for businesses and surrounding communities, and makes it more difficult for local and state governments to collect taxes.

"Since the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado, businesses across the state have lacked access to basic banking services," Bennet said. "This has raised significant public safety concerns for both employees and customers of these businesses. It's also created compliance and oversight challenges. This bill helps address those issues by allowing our banking system to serve these legal businesses like any others."

"Ever since Colorado voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, conflicting federal and state marijuana laws have required banks to refuse basic financial services to marijuana-related businesses in Colorado. In turn, this has forced the industry to adopt an all-cash business model that fosters violent crime and puts all Coloradans at risk," said Gardner. "This commonsense legislation solves a major public safety problem in my state by giving legitimate businesses acting in compliance with state laws access to the banking system."

The bill would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business;
  • Terminating or limiting a bank's federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned marijuana 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 marijuana-related business.
The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned marijuana businesses, while maintaining banks' right to choose not to offer those services.

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