Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019. Authored by U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7), the SAFE Banking bill would solve a key logistical and public safety problem in states that have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis. Bennet is cosponsor of the Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act.
“The lack of access to banking services for marijuana businesses is a public safety issue in Colorado and across the country. This common-sense bill would allow our banking system to serve marijuana businesses the same way they serve any other legal places of business. I’m grateful to Congressman Perlmutter for his leadership in pushing this bill across the finish line. We will continue our efforts to move this bill in the Senate.”
Currently, cannabis businesses operating under state laws that have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis 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.
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 an 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 incenting 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.
The bill would create 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 cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services.
The bill also would require banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis policies.