CUNA, ABA Pen Op-Ed in Support for SAFE Banking Act, Nussle Comments in Forbes

Congress can stop the cannabis banking conundrum now, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle and American Bankers Association President/CEO Rob Nichols wrote in Fox Business Thursday. A credit union witness is scheduled to testify on CUNA's behalf before the Senate Banking Committee on the need for legal cannabis business to access financial services, and Nussle and Nichols outline why this is necessary in the op-ed.

The two cite the CUNA-supported Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) as an example of legislation that would “improve safety and support small businesses across America.” The bill would protect financial institutions that serve legal cannabis businesses and provide legal clarity.

“Credit unions and banks play a crucial role in keeping Main Street running safely and prosperously. They extend credit to help businesses grow, move cash off the street and into traceable, secure accounts, and are the front line against money laundering and other suspicious activity, flagging for law enforcement bad actors trying to hide their ill-gotten gains,” Nussle and Nichols, wrote. “By passing the SAFE Banking Act, Congress will allow these vital institutions to continue helping main streets from Maine to Hawaii grow and thrive.”

They also note the bipartisan support for the SAFE Banking Act, which passed the House Financial Services Committee in March with a bipartisan 45-15 vote, and is supported by 38 attorneys general from around the country.

Eighteen state and two territorial governors added their names to a letter urging Congress to pass legislation to enable financial institutions to provide banking services to state-licensed cannabis businesses. Gov. Phil Murphy was among the twenty signatories on the letter sent to U.S. Senate and U.S. House leadership, and the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Banking and House Financial Service committees. 

NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and NJ Commissioner of Banking & Insurance Marlene Caride and NJ State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio have also added their names to colleague letters sent to Congress.

 The House version of the SAFE Banking currently has 206 cosponsors including eight from New Jersey, Reps. Donald Norcross (D-1), Jeff Van Drew (D-2), Tom Malinowski (D-7), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-9), Albio Sires (D-9), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10), Mikie Sherrill (D-11) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12). The Senate bill has 30 cosponsors including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Rachel Pross, chief risk officer at Maps CU, Salem, Ore., will testify in support of the SAFE Banking Act on behalf of CUNA at a Senate Banking Committee hearing “Challenges for Cannabis Banking: Outside Perspectives” on Tuesday, July 23.

Forbes posted an article about the upcoming hearing which included comments by Jim Nussle. 

Allowing legal cannabis-based business access to mainstream financial services is a public safety issue, he told Forbes this week. “[Legal cannabis business] is an $8.3 billion industry that’s currently being forced to operate almost entirely in cash," Nussle said. "While 33 states, territories and [Washington] D.C. have legalized cannabis, it’s been overwhelmingly difficult to provide these businesses financial services because handling transactions are currently considered money laundering. Credit unions have been leading the way in helping to get this money off the streets.

“We are dedicated to finding a solution to this ongoing challenge that impacts every community around the country and look forward to working with Senate leaders during this hearing and with Congress at large,” he added.