Strange Bedfellows Sign On To A New Marijuana Banking Bill

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For years, lawmakers have introduced marijuana banking bills that have gone nowhere. Now, comes a new bill — this one has the backing of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet. But it also includes sponsorship from Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky.

Called the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2017, its backers say it will solve a key logistical and public safety problem in the states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana.

“Conflicting federal and state marijuana laws make it difficult for legitimate businesses to use the basic financial services they need access to and this bipartisan legislation gives them that access they need,” Gardner said. “We must also take into account the risk to public safety as these businesses are being forced to carry around bags of money to pay for their employees and rent. Legal businesses should not be treated like this, and I’m glad that Republicans and Democrats are working together to address this issue.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, and others have introduced marijuana banking bills since 2015. Perlmutter reintroduced the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015 last month.

His proposed legislation would remove current legal uncertainty by providing a “safe harbor” and additional civil protections for depository institutions who provide a financial product or service to a covered business, they said. For example, federal banking regulators would not be able to threaten or limit a bank or credit union’s deposit insurance, take any action or downgrade a loan made to a covered business, or force a depository institution to halt providing any kind of banking services to a marijuana-related legitimate business.

Banks have refused the accounts of marijuana-related business over fear of being accused of money laundering and drug trafficking and because banking rules prohibit banking for activities defined as illegal under federal law. The federal government does not recognize state’s authority to allow marijuana businesses and considers these businesses illegal.

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