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Financial, Labor And Insurance Groups Call For Marijuana Banking Reform As Part Of Defense Bill

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Senate leadership has received yet another letter urging that marijuana banking reform be enacted as part of defense legislation—this time from financial associations and labor groups.

The American Bankers Association (ABA), Credit Union National Association (CUNA), United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and 11 other organizations sent the letter on Tuesday, imploring members to adopt language protecting banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The House has already attached language from the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in its version of NDAA, and the groups want the Senate to follow the chamber’s lead.

“Our organizations have banded together because the status quo is untenable for workers, communities, ancillary businesses and law-abiding financial institutions,” the new letter states. They added that enacting the banking reform would “also provide legitimate business with access to necessary insurance products and protections that are afforded to other businesses.”

“SAFE Banking is germane to NDAA because it bolsters national security by keeping bad actors out of the cannabis industry and the financial system, while also supporting the thousands of veterans who rely on the cannabis industry for medical treatment, employment, or entrepreneurial opportunities,” the letter continues.

Other signatories on this latest letter include the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association, the American Land and Title Association, the National Bankers Association, the Electronic Transaction Association and the National Association of REALTORS.

“Time is of the essence. Each day we go without SAFE Banking, workers in cannabis related businesses(CRB), many of whom are veterans, are put in danger due to cash intensive transactions,” the groups said. “We understand that creating a true federal regulatory framework for cannabis is a multi-step process. However, we strongly believe that the SAFE Banking Act is a critical first step to ensure that legal cannabis marketplaces are safe, legal, and transparent.”

CUNA and other credit union associations sent a letter with a similar request to key Senate committee leadership earlier last month.

While the Senate has yet to independently add the banking reform language to its version of NDAA, supporters want to see the provisions adopted by negotiators in conference for the final legislation sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Bipartisan members of the Senate Armed Services Committee also recently sent their own letter urging leaders to include the SAFE Banking Act in the final NDAA. Shortly thereafter, U.S. senators representing Colorado made the same request in a separate letter.

The SAFE Banking Act has been approved in some form in the House five times now, but it’s so far languished in the Senate. Stakeholders have held out hope that the chamber would advance the legislation with a Democratic majority, but some key players like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have insisted on passing comprehensive legalization—like a reform bill he’s finalizing—first.

That said, Schumer has signaled that he’s open to enacting banking reform through NDAA if it contained social equity provisions.

Last month, a bipartisan coalition of two dozen governors implored congressional leaders to finally enact marijuana banking reform through the large-scale defense legislation.

A group of small marijuana business owners also recently made the case that the incremental banking policy change could actually help support social equity efforts.

Rodney Hood, a board member of the National Credit Union Administration, wrote in a recent Marijuana Moment op-ed that legalization is an inevitability—and it makes the most sense for government agencies to get ahead of the policy change to resolve banking complications now.

Meanwhile, an official with the Internal Revenue Service said that the agency would like to “get paid,” and it’d help if the marijuana industry had access to banks like companies in other legal markets so they could more easily comply with tax laws.

Federal data shows that many financial institutions remain hesitant to take on cannabis companies as clients, however, which is likely due to the fact that the plant is a strictly controlled substance under federal law.

Read the new letter to Senate leadership on marijuana banking in the NDAA below: 

Click to access safe-banking-ancillary-business-letter-11302021.pdf

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