A strong majority of Americans support freeing up banks to work with marijuana businesses without facing federal penalties, according to a new poll released by the American Bankers Association (ABA) on Tuesday.
The survey, conducted by Morning Consult, posed two questions on marijuana banking. The first broadly asked respondents whether they support or oppose allowing cannabis businesses to “access traditional banking services, like a checking account or business loan, in states where cannabis is now legal.” Sixty-five said they favor that policy, with just 15 percent in opposition.
Respondents were then asked about whether Congress should approve legislation that would accomplish that reform. For that question, 68 percent said they agree that lawmakers on Capitol Hill should act.
While the prompt didn’t specifically reference the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, that bipartisan bill would provide the described banking protections, and it’s passed the House in some form six times at this point only to stall in the Senate.
“Consumers clearly agree that now is the time to resolve the ongoing conflict between state and federal law so banks can serve legal cannabis and cannabis-related businesses,” ABA CEO Rob Nichols said in a press release. “Doing so will help banks meet the needs of their communities while enhancing public safety, increasing the efficiency of tax collections and improving the financial transparency of the cannabis industry.”
The survey involved interviews with 2,210 adults from February 18-19, with a +/- 2 percent margin of error.
Late last year, ABA was among several financial, labor and insurance groups to call on Congress to pass marijuana banking reform as part of a large-scale defense bill. While the SAFE Banking sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) got the language attached to the House version, it was ultimately removed following bicameral negotiations.
❗❗ More evidence of the overwhelming support for #SAFEBanking.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) March 8, 2022
The problem at hand in the Senate is that leadership has insisted on passing comprehensive legalization first before advancing legislation viewed as largely friendly to the industry.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who has been a chief barrier to the banking bill’s passage in his chamber, recently signaled he may be open to passing it if certain equity provisions are attached. Perlmutter said he’d be amenable to revisions but cautioned that putting too much in the bipartisan bill could jeopardize some GOP support.
In any case, Perlmutter recently said that he remains “confident” that the opposite chamber will finally take up his bill before he retires at the end of the session.
Meanwhile, the number of banks that report working with marijuana businesses ticked up again near the end of 2021, according to recently released federal data.
It’s not clear if the increase is related to congressional moves to pass a bipartisan cannabis banking reform bill, but the figures from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) signal that financial institutions continue to feel more comfortable servicing businesses in state-legal markets.
Some Republicans are scratching their heads about how Democrats have so far failed to pass the modest banking reform with majorities in both chambers and control of the White House, too. For example, Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized his Democratic colleagues over the issue in December.
In the interim, federal financial regulator Rodney Hood—a board member and former chairman of the federal National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)—recently said that marijuana legalization is not a question of “if” but “when,” and he’s again offering advice on how to navigate the federal-state conflict that has left many banks reluctant to work with cannabis businesses.