U.S. state bankers associations jointly sent a letter to leaders of a key Senate panel saying they support cannabis banking reform and urging the committee to hold a hearing on the merits of such legislation.
“We believe federal action is necessary and support a solution that would allow banks to serve cannabis-related businesses in states where the activity is legal,” the letter stated.
It was signed by all 50 state banking associations.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The letter was dated Monday and addressed to Senate Banking Committee Chair Michael Crapo, an Idaho Republican, and ranking committee member Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. It was copied to other members of the panel.
- Industry watchers see the Republican-controlled Senate as the biggest hurdle to passing the so-called SAFE Banking Act, which would federally protect financial institutions that serve state-legal marijuana businesses.
- A House committee advanced the bill in late March.
- The bankers groups sent the letter during the same week that the National Cannabis Industry Association is holding an annual lobbying event in Washington DC.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat and sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, told NCIA members Tuesday at a legislative briefing that he hopes the House Rules Committee takes up the banking measure within a month.
Aaron Smith, NCIA’s executive director, said the mostly cash-only marijuana industry has become a “public safety crisis.” He added that the public safety and tax collection issues are points that resonate with Republican lawmakers.
Ultimately, the keys to passing cannabis banking reform are bipartisan support and giving Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “a reason to do this,” said Becky Dansky, executive director of the Safe and Responsible Banking Alliance.
She told NCIA members that with some members of Congress, “we’re still dealing with ‘Reefer Madness’.”
That’s especially true in the Senate, she noted, where “it’s still difficult getting them to acknowledge this is a legitimate industry.”
Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]