Denver — Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper applauded committee passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, which they both cosponsor. The bill would allow financial institutions to provide legally-operating cannabis businesses access to critical banking services – including bank accounts, credit cards, and checks – without fear of retribution by federal regulators.
"Current federal law forces Colorado's cannabis businesses to operate on a cash basis – exposing them to unnecessary risks and creating compliance and oversight challenges,” said Bennet. “I'm glad the Senate is finally moving forward on this common sense legislation to bring our laws into the 21st century and ensure legal businesses in Colorado can access our banking system and protect their customers and employees."
“Forcing legal cannabis businesses into cash-only operations creates more opportunity for crime,” said Hickenlooper. “This vote brings us one step closer to the entire nation following Colorado’s lead.”
Currently, most cannabis businesses in states where it has been legalized are denied access to the banking system. The SAFER Banking Act would resolve these issues by providing a safe harbor for banks, credit unions, other financial institutions, and payment processors that provide services to these State-sanctioned businesses, allowing them to operate in the financial mainstream. By shifting these businesses and their employees away from cash-reliant operations, this bill helps to promote public safety for the communities in which they operate. In 2022, burglary or attempted burglary accounted for 96% of marijuana industry-related offenses in Denver.
In addition to enhancing public safety, giving legal cannabis businesses access to banking services would make it easier for communities of color to participate in the growing cannabis industry. The bill extends protections to Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions, which focus on serving marginalized communities.
The SAFER Banking Act updates the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which Bennet and Hickenlooper introduced with a bipartisan group of senators earlier this year. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the SAFE Banking Act six times. Changes to the bill include directing financial institutions to develop banking relationships in their communities and expanding Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation unbanked and underbanked surveys to small and medium-sized businesses. Last month, the Senate Banking Committee voted to pass the SAFER Banking Act by a vote of 14-9.The text of the bill is available HERE.