Today, voters in 47 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia
have spoken and legalized some form of recreational or medical marijuana, including hemp and CBD products. 97.7 % of the U.S. population live in these states. Because cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, individuals who grow, possess, use, sell, transport, or distribute cannabis remain subject to federal criminal prosecution.
Under current law, financial institutions providing banking services to legitimate and licensed cannabis businesses under state laws are subject to criminal prosecution under several federal statutes such as "aiding and abetting" a federal crime and money laundering. Therefore, businesses that legally grow, market or sell cannabis in states that have legalized its sale are generally locked out of the banking system, making it difficult for them to maintain a checking account; access credit; accept credit and debit cards; meet payroll; or pay tax revenue. This has created a significant public safety risk, as these businesses are forced to operate as cash-only businesses in an industry with billions of dollars in transactions. These high-volume cash businesses are being targeted by violent criminals and putting our communities at risk, inviting theft, robberies, burglaries, or worse, as we saw with the murders of Travis Mason in June 2016 and Michael Arthur in Portland, Oregon in December 2020.
In response, the SAFE Banking Act of 2021
seeks to harmonize federal and state law by prohibiting federal regulators from taking punitive measures against depository institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses and ancillary businesses (e.g. electricians, plumbers, landlords, etc.) that serve them. The bill establishes a safe harbor for any depository institution that chooses to provide banking services to a cannabis-related legitimate businesses which holds and maintains a license from a state or local government to engage in manufacturing, growing, or producing, as well as any business who handles, sells, transports, displays or distributes cannabis or cannabis products.
To support the economic recovery,
this bill would bring more cash into the economy. As of January 2021, the legal cannabis industry supports 321,000 jobs
across the country. Over the 2018-2028 period, job growth this market is projected to climb 250%, the fastest rate for any industry in the U.S. The legal U.S. cannabis market is valued at $17.7 billion, with a substantial amount unbanked. Bringing in this cash will make the industry safer and give banks and credit unions more capital to lend during the recovery.
To promote diversity and inclusion,
the SAFE Banking Act requires a GAO study and annual regulator reports to Congress to monitor that there is equal access to credit and to reduce barriers to marketplace entry for potential and existing minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses.
Current Status of the SAFE Banking Act
To date, the SAFE Banking Act has passed the U.S. House five times, most recently in September 2021 as an amendment to the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act. Previously, the SAFE Banking Act passed the House
by a vote of 321 to 101 on April 19, 2021, with 106 Republicans voting in support. In February 2019, the SAFE Banking Act prompted the first-ever congressional hearing on the issue of cannabis banking
. Click here
to see the 2019 report from the House Financial Services Committee. Changes in the 117th Congress include minor technical changes to the safe harbor, strengthened hemp provisions, and other technical updates. Perlmutter first introduced a similar version of the SAFE Banking Act in July 2013
Support for the SAFE Banking Act
As of November 2021, 180 bipartisan Members of Congress and 39 bipartisan Senators are cosponsors of this important legislation. The bill is also supported by Governors from 21 states and territories
as well as the below organizations: