Congress Poised to Consider SAFE Banking Act Allowing Financial Services for Canna Businesses

The 2019 bill expands on previous versions, providing additional protection for financial institutions and other ancillary businesses serving the marijuana industry.

3/12/2019

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 was introduced in the U.S. Congress last week, just two weeks after a landmark hearing examined the challenges legal cannabis businesses face obtaining financial services.

The bipartisan legislation would allow credit unions and other financial institutions to more easily serve the cannabis businesses legally operating in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Financial institutions are hamstrung by regulatory red tape because marijuana is still considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Rep. Denny Heck (D-W-10) and Rep. Ed Perlumtter (D-CO-7) authored the bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Warren Davidson (R-OH-8) and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15). Unlike versions of the legislation previously considered in Congress, this version prohibits federal banking regulators from taking actions against financial institutions serving legal marijuana businesses. It also adds protection for other businesses that serve the industry, including real estate owners, accountants, and other vendors.

“We know… that the federal government prioritizes keeping this product out of the hands of children and organized crime,” Heck said. “The most effective way to do that is to not only allow but encourage these businesses to use traditional banking methods to track their sales, deposits, expenses, tax payments, and other business transactions. If Congress fails to act, we are discouraging responsible, regulated markets and allowing a serious public safety threat to go unaddressed,” he said.

The SAFE legislation was introduced as thousands of credit union advocates nationwide headed for the beltway to meet with their representatives during the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference.