WASHINGTON, D.C. – Momentum is building today for Senator Jeff Merkley’s Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, as the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing to consider the bipartisan legislation to solve banking access for legal cannabis businesses.
Merkley testified at the hearing, as did Oregonian Rachel Pross, the Chief Risk Officer of Maps Credit Union. Video of Merkley’s testimony before the committee is available aquí, and his written testimony is available aquí.
“Forcing businesses to operate in cash is an invitation to crime, money laundering, and robbery,” said Merkley. “Whether you’re for or against legal cannabis, we all agree that we want our communities to be safe from fraud and crime. That’s why this legislation has significant bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. I’m pleased to see the momentum for this legislation continue to grow, and I’m going to keep fighting to get this legislation over the finish line in this Congress.”
At the hearing, Merkley submitted more than 100 stories into the record from Americans who have been affected by the lack of banking services for legal cannabis businesses. In some cases, even companies who do business with legal cannabis businesses—such as landlords and security firms—have had their banking services cut off.
Merkley first introduced the SAFE Banking Act in 2015, after hearing from Oregon businesses who were struggling with a lack of banking services following Oregon’s legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis. Merkley has worked to build support for the legislation in Congress, and re-introduced the SAFE Banking Act this spring with five Republican co-sponsors.
Actualmente, a las empresas de cannabis que operan bajo las leyes estatales que han legalizado el cannabis medicinal o recreativo se les ha negado en su mayoría el acceso al sistema bancario porque los bancos que les brindan servicios pueden ser procesados bajo la ley federal. Sin la capacidad de acceder a cuentas bancarias, aceptar tarjetas de crédito o emitir cheques, las empresas deben operar utilizando grandes cantidades de efectivo. Esto crea riesgos de seguridad para las empresas y las comunidades circundantes, y dificulta que los gobiernos locales y estatales recauden impuestos.
El Ley de Banca Segura evitaría que los reguladores bancarios federales:
- Prohibir, penalizar o disuadir a un banco de proporcionar servicios financieros a un negocio de cannabis legítimo sancionado y regulado por el estado, o a un negocio asociado (como un abogado o propietario que presta servicios a un negocio de cannabis legal);
- Terminar o limitar el seguro de depósito federal de un banco únicamente porque el banco está brindando servicios a un negocio de cannabis autorizado por el estado o negocio asociado;
- Recomendar o incentivar a un banco para que suspenda o rebaje la prestación de cualquier tipo de servicios bancarios a estas empresas; o
- Tomar cualquier acción sobre un préstamo a un propietario u operador de un negocio relacionado con el cannabis.
Momentum has grown swiftly for the legislation in 2019 as the House, Senate, and Administration have all expressed interest in solving this challenge. The House Financial Services Committee passed the SAFE Banking Act in March by a vote of 45-15. And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified before Congress this spring that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has had to build “cash rooms” to accommodate taxes paid by legal cannabis companies and added, “I hope this is something that this committee can on a bipartisan basis work with, since there are people on both sides of the aisle that share these concerns.”
The next step for the SAFE Banking Act would be for the Senate Banking Committee to pass the legislation out of committee, followed by a vote of the full Senate and House on the floor of each respective chamber before being signed into law by the President.