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From Banking and Finance Law Daily, May 18, 2017

Nine senators agree: legal marijuana businesses need banks

By Richard A. Roth, J.D.

Seven Democratic and two Republican senators have jointly introduced a bill that is intended to ensure marijuana businesses that are legal under state law have access to needed banking services. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act would alleviate the public safety problems that are presented when cannabis businesses are denied basic banking and credit card services and thus forced to operate on a cash basis, according to a joint press release. The bill sponsors include senators who represent several states that have to some degree legalized cannabis commerce.

According to the press release, the bill would prevent federal regulators from:

  • preventing a bank from providing financial services either to a cannabis business that is legal under state law or to an associated business, such as an attorney or lessor;

  • terminating a bank’s federal deposit insurance due to the bank’s services to a legal cannabis business;

  • encouraging a bank to reduce or end services to such a business; or

  • taking an action on credit to the owner or operator of such a business.

The bill also would create a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and asset forfeitures for banks and their officers and employees if they provide banking services to legal cannabis businesses. However, banks would need to continue to follow current or future Financial Crimes Enforcement Network guidance on filing Suspicious Activity Reports and other issues.

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