Earlier this month, Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser (D) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) sent a letter to U.S. Senate leadership demanding the passage of the cannabis-related SAFE banking bill.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act aims to protect financial institutions that wish to provide their services to state-legal marijuana businesses. Some industry experts believe the bill has a better chance of passing the Senate than the MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances list and allow states to legalize its production and sale free from federal interference.
Wiser and Yost, who are also serving as co-chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Federalism Committee, said in the letter that “states and federal government share a strong and common interest in protecting public safety and bringing grey market financial activities into the regulated banking sector,” reported Marijuana Moment.
“To address these vital goals, we yet again urge the Senate to bring the SAFE Banking Act to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible,” they wrote.
SAFE Banking Sponsor Also Acts
On the heels of the bipartisan duo’s move, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the sponsor of the bill, also issued his letter to Senate leadership urging the same action from the chamber.
Perlmutter suggested that passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, aside from being a priority on its own, would also serve as a legislative “icebreaker” for broader reform.
In the new letter, the attorneys general highlighted that they “urge the Senate to advance the SAFE Banking Act or similar legislation to provide a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that has implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability in the marijuana industry.
“Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states, with state input while protecting the interests of the federal government,” the letter continues. “This includes a banking system for marijuana-related businesses that is both responsive and effective in meeting the demands of our economy.”
On Thursday, Weiser went to social media channels to spread the word:
The law prohibits banks from providing services to cannabis businesses in states where medical or retail sales are legal. Cash-only operations pose safety threats. Again we ask the US Senate to pass the #SAFEBankingAct to give this industry access to the federal banking system. pic.twitter.com/E0RnOoiI8i
— Colorado Attorney General (@COAttnyGeneral) April 21, 2022
Will These Efforts Work?
It remains to be seen, as not many senators have revealed their stance on this bill, contrary to publicly speaking against the MORE Act.
With 18 states having legal adult-use markets and 37 states plus DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands having legalized medical marijuana, it’s hard to imagine that broader reform is not on the horizon. The question seems to be when not if.
So, Perlmutter might just be right that the SAFE Banking Act could serve as an “icebreaker” for federal marijuana reform. We’ll see.