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Major Financial Associations Call For Passage Of Marijuana Banking Bill

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Four major national financial associations sent a letter to House leadership on Thursday, expressing support for bipartisan marijuana banking legislation that’s expected to receive a floor vote next week. Meanwhile, 50 state banking associations sent a similar letter urging Congress to pass the bill.

The American Bankers Association (ABA), Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and National Bankers Association (NBA) wrote that while they do not have a position on cannabis legalization, “our members are committed to serving the financial needs of their communities—including those that have voted to legalize cannabis.”

“The current threat of criminal and civil liability under federal law is suppressing the provision of vital financial services in the thirty-three states that have legalized cannabis in some form,” the groups wrote.

The Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which cleared the House Financial Services Committee in March, has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill since Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told the Democratic Caucus last week that he intends to hold a vote on the bill by the end of the month.

Advocacy groups including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance responded to the development with a letter urging a delay on the vote until more comprehensive legalization legislation that addresses social equity is passed.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) agrees with that sentiment, a staffer in her office told Marijuana Moment.

“She feels strongly that addressing racial justice should be the first priority,” Dan Riffle, senior counsel and policy advisor to the congresswoman, said.

This latest letter from the banking associations highlights the contention over the issue, with lawmakers facing pressure to act on marijuana reform without alienating groups that are primarily concerned with addressing the social injustices of prohibition.

Several House members, including Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that they appreciate what organizations like the ACLU are fighting for, but said it is incumbent on Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to advance his separate wide-ranging legalization bill that civil rights groups want prioritized. In the meantime, they will be supporting the banking legislation.

Because House leaders plan to bring the cannabis banking legislation forward under an expedited procedure that requires a two-thirds majority for approval, potential opposition from Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive lawmakers who believe social equity proposals should advance first could jeopardize passage.

“The SAFE Banking Act of 2019 provides a mechanism for the cannabis industry and its service providers to deposit their cash in regulated financial institutions, which allows our members to meet the needs of their communities and helps those communities reduce cash-motivated crimes, increase the efficiency of tax collections, and improve the financial transparency of the cannabis industry,” the financial services groups wrote.

“Without congressional action, a significant portion of economic activity, including those businesses with only indirect connections to the cannabis industry, such as vendors, suppliers, and utility companies, risk being marginalized from the financial system in states with legal cannabis industries. H.R. 1595 provides needed legal protection and clarity for financial institutions to accept deposits, extend credit, and provide other financial services to individuals and businesses that derive some portion of their income from legal state cannabis related activity.”

The second letter, from ABA and the 50 state banking associations, said the SAFE Banking Act is “fair and balanced legislation that will permit depository institutions to serve the needs of their customers in states where cannabis is legal.”

“The bill provides a mechanism for the cannabis industry and its service providers to deposit their cash in regulated financial institutions, which allows banks to meet the needs of their communities and helps those communities reduce cash-motivated crimes, increase the efficiency of tax collections, and improve the financial transparency of the cannabis industry,” they wrote.

Over in the Senate, Banking Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that his panel will also be holding a vote on legislation to give cannabis businesses access to financial services before the end of the year.

Read the full letter on marijuana banking below from the four national groups: 

Joint Trade Support Safe Ba… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

This story was updated to include the letter from the 50 state banking associations.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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