As the legal cannabis industry continues to grow in the U.S., with more states opting to permit medical or recreational use through voter initiative or legislation, the issue of banking for marijuana-related businesses continues to be an unresolved problem that is becoming more pressing as time goes on.
In May of 2019, a coalition of 38 Attorneys General demonstrated bipartisan support for the SAFE Banking Act, arguing that states, territories, and the federal government have a shared interest in preserving public safety by allowing state-legal cannabis products into the regulated banking sector.
In June, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues and the Credit Union National Association sent a joint letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to ask them to hold hearings where safe banking options for the cannabis industry could be discussed.
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing on July 23, 2018, titled Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives, Senator Crapo expressed concerns with public safety issues surrounding cannabis, legacy cash, and money laundering.
Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY) was joined by a bipartisan coalition of 21 other Attorneys General in September to urge Congress to pass H.R. 2093, also known as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, or similar measure that would allow cannabis businesses to access the banking system.
With a 321-103 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act on Tuesday, September 25, though the Senate version has not received final approval as of yet.
In December, Senator Crapo invited public feedback regarding how to address cannabis banking-related concerns about public health and money.
Senator Crapo expressed concerns with the SAFE Banking Act and his opposition to legalization at the federal level as well as in his home state of Idaho.
The senator stated that there are concerns that the SAFE Banking Act does not address high-potency cannabis, marketing tactics to children, the lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using banks to launder money.
Senator Crapo said that input from all parties on how to address the issues would be welcome.
On Thursday, January 16, 2020, a group of more than 30 industry organizations sent a co-signed letter to Senator Crapo, urging him to advance the House-approved version of the SAFE Banking Act.
“We are not writing to ask you to support federal legalization,” states the letter. “We are merely asking that you facilitate the availability of financial services to the state-legal cannabis industry in order to improve public safety, allow states to easily track and collect tax revenue, and assist the state-legal industry with displacing an illicit market that is currently operating free from any regulatory oversight.”
Referring to previous comments by Senator Crapo, the letter says that using a THC limit as a condition would help drive consumers and revenue from state-legal markets, which create tens of thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, to illegal markets.
The letter states that making banking services available only for businesses that sell products under 2% THC would undermine the purpose of the SAFE Banking Act, making profitable operations by state-legal cannabis businesses nearly impossible.
In regards to a Gallup poll that found that 90% of Americans are in support of medical cannabis being legalized, and that 66% favor making cannabis legal for adults, the letter notes that more than two-thirds of the nation’s population lives in states that have reformed marijuana laws.
The letter states that the cannabis industry is ready to work with Senator Crapo’s office to address any technical issues that he has suggested should be a priority.
The coalition closes their letter by urging Senator Crapo to work with the state-regulated cannabis industry, the financial sector, and other interested stakeholders on a beneficial solution that does not hinder the burgeoning industry or the will of the American public.