Federal Cannabis Banking Legislation Gains Momentum with Support from 24 State Regulatory Agencies

Attorneys General from numerous states are also expected to ask Congress to support marijuana banking legislation.

4/30/2019 

Marijuana and Gavel

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation and the Washington Department of Financial Institutions joined 23 other state agencies urging Congress to pass legislation removing barriers for legal marijuanarelated businesses to obtain banking services. The coalition penned a letter to House and Senate leadership April 15. 

“Establishing a safe harbor for banks to serve these entities would help reduce the risk associated with large cash-and-carry operations and bring the safeguards, activities, and sales associated with this business into the regulatory reporting compliance framework,” the coalition wrote.  

Congressional leaders will also soon be hearing from a bipartisan group of state attorneys general. A letter is being developed similar to a version sent in 2018 signed by attorneys general from 19 states. The 2019 version being prepared for the 116th Congress is expected to have support from Oregon and Washington.  

Federal legislation offering protection for financial institutions serving the legal cannabis industry is gaining momentum in the Beltway. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019—HR 1595—has 166 cosponsors, including 12 from the Northwest.

They are: 

  • Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) 
  • Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1) 
  • Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) 
  • Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5) 
  • Denny Heck (D-WA-10) 
  • Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1) 
  • Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) 
  • Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6) 
  • Adam Smith (D-WA-9) 
  • Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) 
  • Kim Schrier (D-WA-8) 
  • Rick Larsen (D-WA-2) 

The bill had a hearing in the House Financial Services Committee in February and the legislation was passed by the committee with a bipartisan vote of 45-15. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Merkley’s bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, including Parry Murry (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

“This issue is important for credit unions, regardless of whether they are currently serving the marijuana industry,” said Samantha Beeler, Northwest Credit Union Association Vice President, Advocacy. “The entire region is impacted by the public safety issue if legal marijuana businesses cannot obtain financial services. Not all financial institutions will opt to serve marijuana businesses, but the legislation would allow a safe harbor for those that do.