The Hickenlooper and Bennet cosponsored bill would legalize banking services like access to bank accounts, credit cards, and checks for the cannabis industry
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet applauded committee passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, which both senators cosponsor. The bill would allow legally-operating cannabis businesses to access critical banking services – including bank accounts, credit cards, and checks – without fear of retribution by federal regulators. The SAFER Banking Act passed the Senate Banking Committee last week by a vote of 14-9.
“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.”
“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.”
Currently, most state legal cannabis businesses are denied access to the banking system because banks fear they might be prosecuted under federal law, where cannabis is still illegal. As a result, most legal cannabis businesses operate in all-cash, which has led to ongoing threats of robbery and assault for business owners and employees. In 2022, burglary or attempted burglary accounted for 96% of marijuana industry-related offenses in Denver.
The SAFER Banking Act updates the SAFE Banking Act, which Hickenlooper and Bennet introduced with a bipartisan group of senators in April. Changes include directing financial institutions to develop banking relationships in the communities where they reside and expanding FDIC unbanked and underbanked surveys to small-and mid-sized businesses.
In addition to enhancing public safety, giving legal cannabis businesses access to banking services would make it easier for communities of color, who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, to access capital to participate in the growing cannabis industry. The bill extends protections to Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions, who focus on serving marginalized communities.
The previous version of the bill, SAFE Banking Act, has passed the House six times.
Full text of the bill is available HERE.