Perlmutter, Heck Introduce Commonsense Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act

 

"We need to address the public safety, crime and lost tax revenue associated when these legal and regulated businesses are operating in a cash-only system"

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) and Denny Heck (WA - 10), along with a bipartisan group of 16 other Republicans and Democrats, are proposing sensible reforms of federal banking laws relating to marijuana businesses. The Perlmutter/Heck bill updates federal banking rules to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws, promoting community safety and financial security.

 

Currently, under federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses that follow state law are prevented from opening bank accounts and operating as any other businesses would. They are therefore forced to operate as cash-only enterprises, inviting crime such as robbery and tax evasion and adding to the burden of setting up a legitimate small business.

 

"We need to address the public safety, crime and lost tax revenue associated when these legal and regulated businesses are operating in a cash-only system,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter (CO-07).  “We also need to provide financial institutions assurance that they can make their own business decisions related to legal, financial transactions without fear of regulatory penalties or criminal prosecution."

 

“As a small business owner, I can’t imagine trying to operate a legitimate business without access to the banking system. Forcing legitimate businesses to operate on a cash-only basis without bank accounts is an invitation for robbery, tax evasion and organized crime. With twenty-one states and D.C. now allowing for some form of legal adult marijuana usage, federal law needs to be updated to reflect the reality of the situation in the states,” said Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10).

 

Colorado and Washington recently legalized recreational adult-use of marijuana and are in the process of crafting rules, regulations and tax mechanisms for the product. Additionally, 19 other states and the District of Columbia have approved medical marijuana programs. 

 

In all of these states, federal laws are presenting criminal and regulatory barriers to financial institutions, prohibiting them from accepting licensed growers, retailers and dispensaries as ordinary banking customers.

 

The result is legitimate, licensed and regulated businesses have extreme difficulty accessing the banking system to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. 

 

The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act would allow banks, credit unions and other depository institutions the legal clearance to provide banking services to a marijuana-related legitimate business, ensuring these businesses do not have to operate on a cash-only basis.

 

Bi-partisan Co-Sponsors include:Denny Heck (WA), Jim McDermott (WA), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Jared Polis (CO), Adam Smith (WA), Sam Farr (CA), Derek Kilmer (WA), James Moran (VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Michael Capuano (MA), Suzan DelBene (WA), Mike Coffman (CO), Diana DeGette (CO), Peter DeFazio (OR), Alan Lowenthal (CA), Chellie Pingree (ME), and Dana Rohrabacher (CA).

 

Below are more details about the bill and news reports highlighting the need for the legislation.

 

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Under the bill, federal banking regulators may not:

 

  • threaten or limit a depository institutions' access to the Deposit Insurance Fund
  • discourage, prohibit, or penalize depository institutions
  • take any action against a loan made to a covered business
  • force a depository institution to halt providing any kind of banking services

 

Additionally, any depository institution and/or the employees shall be immune from federal prosecution or investigation solely for providing banking services to a covered business.

 

Under the legislation, a covered "financial product and service" includes:

  • providing and/or extending credit and servicing such loans
  • extending or brokering leases of real property, providing real estate settlement services
  • engaging in depository-taking activities, transmitting or exchanging funds on behalf of a consumer
  • selling, providing, or issuing stored value or payment instruments
  • providing check cashing, check collection or check guaranty services
  • providing payments or other financial data processing products or services
  • providing financial advisory services
  • collecting debt related to any consumer financial product or service

 

The legislation covers the following "marijuana-related legitimate business" which holds and maintains a license from a state or local government to engage in such activity:

  • manufacturer, grower and producer
  • any business who handles, sells, transports, displays or distributes marijuana or marijuana products.

 

News articles:

 

CNN - "Marijuana taxes as a cash cow? Think again"

http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/10/smallbusiness/marijuana-taxes/index.html

 

Bloomberg - "Pot Shops Can’t Take American Express or Deposit in Banks"

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-13/pot-shops-can-t-take-american-express-or-deposit-in-banks.html

 

Denver Post - "Pot businesses in Colorado cannot bank and no solution is ahead"

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_22751888/colorado-pot-businesses-cannot-bank-and-nosolution-is#ixzz2THWe7JzA

 

Puget Sound Business Sound - "You pay taxes, but can't get a bank account because your business is selling marijuana"

http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2013/04/when-you-run-a-business-selling.html?page=all

 

CNBC - "Selling Pot Legally? Good Luck Opening a Bank Account"

http://www.cnbc.com/id/48764312