Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has joined a bipartisan coalition of 34 state and territorial attorneys general urging Congress to pass measures that would give legal marijuana-related businesses access to the federal banking system.
A Tuesday statement by Weiser’s office said the coalition is asking Congress to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act — a House Bill sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) and passed by the House in September — or similar measures, to be included in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation.
This SAFE Banking Act, according to its bill summary, would prohibit “a federal banking regulator from penalizing a depository institution for providing banking services to a legitimate marijuana-related business.”
The bill is currently stalled in the Senate.
“Many legitimate businesses have been pushed into cash-dependent models because they don’t have access to the federal banking system,” Weiser said in a statement.
“At a time when COVID-19 has exacerbated health and safety concerns related to cash exchanges, now more than ever it is vital Congress act on this point. We in Colorado will continue to be at the forefront of defending our businesses and their employees.”
Under existing law, financial institutions cannot provide services to marijuana businesses in states where medical or recreational marijuana sales are legal.
Weiser’s office said that forcing legal businesses to operate as cash-only establishments “poses serious safety threats, creating targets for violent and white-collar crime.”
The SAFE Banking Act has 206 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The HEROES Act relief legislation, which the House approved last week, also included the language of the SAFE Banking Act.
In their letter, the attorneys general note that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on problems that the SAFE Banking Act is intended to remediate, including health and safety concerns stemming from frequent and large cash exchanges.
The full text of the letter is here.
The coalition of states and territories includes: Alaska, Arkansas, California, 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.