SAFE Banking Act Would Allow CUs to Serve Member Needs

CUNA and the American Bankers Association wrote in support of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) Tuesday prior to its markup by the House Financial Services Committee. The bill would permit depository institutions to serve the needs of members and customers in states where cannabis is legal.

“We would like to thank you and the members of the House Financial Services Committee for your efforts to work cooperatively to solve the practical problems caused by the disparate treatment of cannabis under federal and state laws,” the letter reads. “Although we do not take a position on the legalization of marijuana, 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,” it adds.

H.R. 1595 provides a mechanism for the cannabis industry and its service providers to deposit cash in regulated financial institutions, allowing CUNA members to meet the needs of their communities and help those communities.

The letter notes that “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.”

Rachel Pross, chief risk officer at Maps CU, Salem, Ore., testified on CUNA’s behalf in support of H.R. 1595 in February. Pross said serving legal cannabis businesses was a public safety issue, and through Maps CU’s efforts, more than $500 million in cash has been removed from its community’s streets over the past two years.

“That’s $500 million removed from Oregon’s sidewalks that used to be carried around in backpacks and shoeboxes by legitimate, legal business owners,” she told the committee.

Although scheduled for markup yesterday, it was delayed and is now expected to take place today.

The SAFE Banking Act enjoys broad, bipartisan support with cosponsors now numbering 148 including several committee Republicans as well as three New Jersey delegation members, Reps Bill Pascrell. Jr. (D-9), Albio Sires (D-8) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12).

Legislation to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey was scheduled for floor votes Monday in the state Legislature. The bills were pulled from the board lists in both chambers when it became apparent that there were not enough votes for passage in the Senate. The legalization bills (A4497S2703) received final committee approvals last week and Gov. Phil Murphy, who made legalizing the recreational use of cannabis one of his top issues while campaigning for governor, promised he would sign the legislation if it reached his desk. 

New Jersey legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2010 so the SAFE Banking Act is important to New Jersey cannabusinesses, credit unions and banks regardless of the whether the state ultimately approves recreational use.