Bipartisan group of Senators call for cannabis businesses to be able to access safe and secure banking services
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet today joined their colleagues in a bipartisan letter urging congressional leadership to include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021 in the final version of the Bipartisan Innovation and Competition legislation currently being negotiated between the House and the Senate.
The SAFE Banking Act would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to access banking services. Currently most legal cannabis businesses have to operate in all-cash, which has led to ongoing threats of robbery and assault for business owners and employees. In Denver, cannabis businesses make up less than 1 percent of all local businesses, but accounted for 10 percent of reported business burglaries from 2012 to 2016.
“The SAFE Banking Act, as included in the House-passed America COMPETES Act, would allow banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to offer banking services to legally-operating cannabis businesses without fear of punishment by federal regulators,” wrote Hickenlooper, Bennet, and the lawmakers. “Allowing cannabis businesses operating legally and in compliance with state law to access financial services without federal reprisal would address public safety and compliance challenges, helping communities reduce cash-motivated crimes.”
The SAFE Banking Act has passed the House six times–most recently as an amendment to its version of the bipartisan competition bill. This letter, sent to Senate Leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Kevin McCarthy in the House, urges leadership to ensure the text of that amendment remains in the final conference version of the Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Bill to be considered by both the House and the Senate.
Hickenlooper is a member of the Conference Committee that will finalize the Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Bill. In the first public hearing today, Hickenlooper spoke about his priorities for the legislation, including the need to modernize our banking laws so that the cannabis industry isn’t operating with the challenges of the current all-cash system.
Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:
May 12, 2022
Dear Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy,
We write to request that the final conferenced American competitiveness, jobs, and innovation package retain the text of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act) of 2021 included in the House of Representatives’ American COMPETES Act of 2022. The House has now passed the SAFE Banking Act six times, including most recently as an amendment to its version of the bipartisan competition bill, and we ask you to ensure that the text of that amendment remains in the final conferenced version of the bill to be considered by both the House and the Senate.
The SAFE Banking Act, as included in the House-passed America COMPETES Act, would allow banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to offer banking services to legally-operating cannabis businesses without fear of punishment by federal regulators. Currently, thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, and eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow adult recreational use. As a result, the cannabis industry has become a powerful job creator and a significant generator of tax revenue. However, financial institutions are often reluctant to transact with cannabis-related businesses, even in states that have some form of legalized cannabis, due to legal and regulatory risks arising from inconsistent federal and state laws. Allowing cannabis businesses operating legally and in compliance with state law to access financial services without federal reprisal would address public safety and compliance challenges, helping communities reduce cash-motivated crimes. Law enforcement organizations have publicly testified before Congress about these cash-related safety risks, including theft, robbery, and serious violence perpetrated against employees responsible for conducting what should be routine business operations.2 The same law enforcement organizations also have testified about the importance of moving these large amounts of cash in the cannabis industry into the banking system, where accounts are monitored in accordance with existing federal anti-money laundering laws and the Bank Secrecy Act. Enacting the SAFE Banking Act via the jobs and competitiveness legislation before us would support a rapidly growing industry that creates jobs, fosters innovation, supports small businesses, and raises revenue in states that have chosen to legalize cannabis, while reducing safety risks to industry employees and the public alike.
The House of Representatives already added the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act by a bipartisan a vote of 262-168, and on February 4, 2022, passed the amended America COMPETES Act by a bipartisan vote of 222 to 210. The standalone legislation on which the amendment is based previously passed the House of Representatives 321-101, garnering the support of more than three-quarters of the chamber and a majority of the members of each party. The bill’s list of co-sponsors is also bipartisan in both the House and the Senate. Given the demonstrated broad support for this measure, we ask you to ensure that the text of the SAFE Banking Act remain in the forthcoming final conferenced version of the jobs and competitiveness bill when it comes to the House and Senate for final votes. This will help cannabis-related businesses, support innovation, create jobs, and strengthen public safety in our communities. We look forward to working with you on this important issue.