I’ve been bringing up the subject of banking in the marijuana business sector a lot lately, because it’s a subject that’s generally been ignored for the last few years. That’s despite the pressing threat to public safety that it clearly poses. Dispensaries and producers forced to do business exclusively in cash must find ways to safely store their earnings while avoiding becoming targets for criminals. The weirdness really rises when these companies go to pay their taxes. As Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada pointed out to a panel of Treasury officials in March, when a cannabis company overpays their taxes to the IRS, they are issued a Treasury check, arguably making the US Treasury a money launderer in cahoots with drug dealers.
Financial institutions are barred by federal law from knowingly working with criminal enterprises, and since cannabis is still federally illegal, working with dispensaries puts banks in an uncomfortable position. That is set to change if the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is passed on Capitol Hill, and it seems to be gathering steam.
In March, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 to 15 to advance the bill. It is slated to be considered on the House floor in the coming weeks.
At the end of April, a group of state treasurers (including New Mexico’s Tim Eichenberg) sent a letter to congressional leaders showing their support for the SAFE Act. In the letter, concerns about public safety are raised and the need for better government guidance is expressed. “Providing financial services to cannabis businesses allows law enforcement, and specifically the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the transparency needed to distinguish legal business transactions from illegal activity,” the treasurers wrote.
Last week the National Association of Attorneys General publicly announced their official support of the bill.