The attorneys general from 33 states and five territories sent a letter to Congress urging them to advance a bill allowing cannabis businesses access to the federal banking system.
In March, the House Financial Services Committee approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, which would allow banking services to dispensaries, cultivators and other cannabis businesses. The bill, first introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, currently has 173 cosponsors, more than one third of the entire chamber’s membership.
The letter calls on Congress to advance the SAFE Banking Act or similar legislation as it reaches the House floor within the next several weeks. The bill is expected to pass there, but sponsors of the bill must still convince Senate Republicans opposed to legalizing cannabis. The key obstacle would be prioritizing the bill, as cannabis banking is not one of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo’s priorities.
“Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states and territories, with state and territorial input, while protecting the interests of the federal government. This includes a banking system for marijuana-related businesses that is both responsive and effective in meeting the demands of our economy,” the National Association of Attorneys General wrote.
Most states and several territories have some form of legal cannabis, whether for medicinal purposes or for recreational purposes. But due to cannabis still being illegal at the federal level, banks can be at legal risk if they handle cannabis-related money or transactions.
The conflict between state and federal laws has stopped growers and sellers from accessing basic financial services such as opening an account or receiving a credit card. The pending bill would allow cannabis businesses to access lines of credit and other services as well as protect banks for working with money linked to the cannabis industry.