An Advocacy Win as SAFE Banking Act Passes House and Heads for Senate

Legislation would remove barriers for credit unions serving legal cannabis businesses.

10/1/2019

A long journey for credit unions seeking to serve legal marijuana businesses arrived at a milestone last week, when the U.S. House passed the SAFE Banking Act. The legislation passed with a groundswell of bipartisan support as 321 representatives voted in favor of the legislation and 103 voted against it.

Some form of marijuana is legal in a majority of states, but with federal law still considering it a narcotic, only a handful of financial institutions are willing to shoulder the compliance risks of serving canna businesses. Dealing largely in high volumes of cash, the businesses face a serious public safety issue.

Legislation similar to H.R. 1595 stalled in previous congressional sessions but gained unstoppable momentum in the 116th Congress. The voice of credit union advocacy played a big role. The sands shifted most early this year when committees in both the House and Senate held hearings.

Testifying both times was Rachel Pross, Chief Risk Officer at Maps Credit Union in Salem. Maps serves 500 Oregon-sanctioned cannabis businesses. Her testimony was arranged by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

“I am absolutely thrilled that the SAFE Banking Act passed the house, and I’m very hopeful for movement in the Senate,” Pross said. “It has been a true honor to be able to represent credit unions on this issue, and I’m tremendously grateful to CUNA for their help in preparing me for both committee hearings.”

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) indicated he would move the legislation forward for a Senate vote, however, amendments are expected. Sen. Crapo expects to schedule a vote by the end of the year.