Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to introduce legislation to ensure that legal cannabis businesses can access banking services.
“We need to put the right infrastructure in place for the marijuana industry to operate legally and securely,” Cortez Masto said. “Allowing lawful cannabis-related businesses access to the mainstream banking system will alleviate security concerns and create more regulatory certainty for Nevada dispensaries and related providers, as well as the banking system. This bill will give our economy a boost by letting local businesses thrive and will also aid in the economic development of Nevada tribes.”
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2017 would solve a key logistical and public safety problem in states that have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis.
Currently, cannabis businesses operating under state laws that have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis have been mostly denied access to the banking system because banks that provide them services can be prosecuted under federal law. Without the ability to access bank accounts, accept credit cards, or write checks, businesses must operate using large amounts of cash. This creates safety risks for businesses and surrounding communities, and makes it more difficult for local and state governments to collect taxes.
The bill 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 a 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.