April 11, 2019

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure Legal Cannabis Businesses Can Access Banking Services

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to introduce legislation to provide access to banking services for legal cannabis businesses. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act would allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to licensed cannabis businesses, cannabis-related businesses and service providers in states that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana use.

“Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Nevada and nine other states across the country, and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. It’s time we created an infrastructure that would allow the marijuana industry in these states to operate legally and provide legitimate cannabis-related businesses with access to the banking system. Even in states that have legalized marijuana, many cannabis businesses are still being denied the ability to open bank accounts, accept credit cards or write checks, which creates security risks and regulatory uncertainty. I’m proud to support this legislation which will support Nevada businesses, boost our economy, and keep our communities safe from money laundering and other crimes.”

In addition to Senators Merkley and Cortez Masto, Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) also cosponsored the legislation.


The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as an lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
  • Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.

The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services.

The bill would require banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis policies.