May 19, 2020
Attorneys Generals from 34 states and territories sent a letter today to Congressional leadership urging members to expeditiously pass The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act so that state-licensed cannabis business can explicitly engage in relationships with banks and other financial institutions.
In their letter, AGs opine: “The current predicament of a rapidly expanding national marketplace without access to the national banking systems has resulted in an untenable situation. We stress that current legislative models are available to fix this situation. In advancing these legislative goals, Congress is not necessarily endorsing any state or territory’s legalization of marijuana-related transactions; similarly, the enactment of the SAFE Banking Act is not a call for the legalization of medical or retail marijuana in those jurisdictions that choose not to pursue such an approach. Rather, it reflects a recognition of the realities on the ground and an embrace of our federalist system of government that is flexible enough to accommodate divergent state approaches.”
They further acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened need for Congress to act quickly. “The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply focused the need for legislative relief in three key respects,” they write. “First, threats to public safety caused by a cash-intensive business model, often the target of criminal activity, have intensified in the months since the pandemic began. Next, the presence of large cash transactions places law enforcement, tax regulators, consumers, and patients at heightened risk of exposure to the virus. Finally, the ability to efficiently collect tax revenue from the marijuana industry, estimated to have generated $15 billion in sales in 2019, will provide critical relief for state and local governments predicting budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.”
Currently, federal laws mandate that this rapidly growing legal industry operates on a cash-only basis – an environment that makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. It also places the safety and welfare of these businesses’ employees, customers, and patients at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities or via recently authorized delivery services.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “The need to provide federal legitimacy to the emerging state-legal cannabis industry is paramount in an era where marijuana has been deemed ‘essential’ in the majority of jurisdictions where its commerce is regulated. This is only further highlighted by the bipartisan nature of the makeup of the 34 Attorneys General who signed this most recent letter. Passage of the SAFE Banking Act would represent a significant step forward towards a rational and evidence-based national cannabis policy.”
The AGs from the following US states and territories signed the letter: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Members of the House of Representatives in November voted 321 to 103 in favor of the Act. More recently, House members again approved the legislation, which was included in the proposed COVID-19 relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.