Cannabis industry activists push for SAFE Banking Act

Cannabis Industry Groups Urge Chairman of Senate Banking Committee to Advance House-approved Cannabis SAFE Banking Bill

More than 30 organizations co-sign a letter to Sen. Mike Crapo, underscoring their support for the SAFE Banking Act and addressing issues raised by Sen. Crapo in a December 2019 memo

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WASHINGTON — A coalition of more than 30 national and state cannabis industry organizations sent a letter Thursday to Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID), urging him to advance the House-approved version of a bill aimed at addressing the state-legal cannabis industry’s lack of access to banking and other financial services.

The House of Representatives passed the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act by a vote of 321-103 in September, with 91 Republicans voting in favor. Chairman Crapo said he intended to have the bill considered in his committee, but also expressed concerns about the bill and other aspects of cannabis policy not related to banking. Those concerns were reflected in a memo he released in December that outlined proposed changes to the bill and requested public comment to inform his decision-making.

Marijuana and Congress

“Together, the undersigned represent thousands of member-businesses in the United States,” the letter reads. “We are not writing to ask you to support federal legalization. We are merely asking that you facilitate the availability of financial services to the state-legal cannabis industry in order to improve public safety, allow states to easily track and collect tax revenue, and assist the state-legal industry with displacing an illicit market that is currently operating free from any regulatory oversight.”

The cannabis industry groups express concern that some of Chairman Crapo’s proposed changes to the SAFE Banking Act would undermine its goal of improving public safety. The letter specifically addresses the senator’s suggestion that banking services might only be made available to businesses that sell cannabis products that test below 2% THC, making it nearly impossible to operate profitably.

SAFE Banking details

“Setting a low THC limit as a condition for obtaining banking services would have the effect of driving consumers to the illegal market, with revenue shifting from state-legal markets, which produce tens of thousands of living wage jobs and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, to an underground economy, which produces neither,” the letter reads. “The same is true with respect to the suggestion that banking services be denied to companies that sell vape pens or other cannabis products that adults consume. Cannabis consumers will find the products that they desire, whether those products are legal or illegal, and the recent vaping crisis in the U.S. has underscored the dangers associated with steering consumers toward an unregulated market”

The letter also highlights the growing number of states that have regulated cannabis for adult and/or medical use, and it cites the broad bipartisan support that exists for the SAFE Banking Act, noting it has been endorsed by 38 state attorneys general and a number of national and state organizations representing banks and credit unions. It concludes with a renewed commitment to work with the senator on a legislative solution to the cannabis banking problem that addresses his concerns.

“The cannabis industry stands ready to work with your office on the myriad technical issues that you have suggested should be a priority, including making certain that these products are not available to children,” the letter reads. “We urge you to work with the state-regulated cannabis industry, the financial services sector, and other interested stakeholders on a solution that supports, rather than hinders, this burgeoning industry and the will of the American public.”