A bipartisan coalition of 34 state and territory attorneys general are urging Congress to pass coronavirus relief legislation that includes language protecting banks that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.
The case they lay out runs directly counter to seemingly coordinated statements by GOP lawmakers in opposition to the banking provision’s inclusion in legislation the Democratic-led House passed on Friday.
In a letter to House and Senate leadership on Tuesday, the top state law enforcement officials said there are three main reasons that providing the cannabis industry with banking access is especially necessary during the pandemic.
First, the public safety threat of operating on a largely cash-only basis has been exacerbated amid the crisis. Second, large cash transactions “places law enforcement, tax regulators, consumers, and patients at heightened risk of exposure to the virus.” Third, access to financial institutions would make it easier to collect tax revenue from marijuana sales, which is particularly needed to offset economic shortfalls due to the health crisis.
Congress needs to pass #SAFEBankingAct, led by @RepPerlmutter. Particularly during #COVID19, it is irresponsible to force #cannabis businesses to operate in cash. We @COAttnyGeneral led a bipartisan AG coalition to demand action. https://t.co/o5JR3UXO92
— Phil Weiser (@pweiser) May 19, 2020
“The current predicament of a rapidly expanding national marketplace without access to the national banking systems has resulted in an untenable situation,” the officials wrote. “We stress that current legislative models are available to fix this situation.”
The argument from the attorneys general, which includes seven Republicans, flies in the face of criticism from GOP lawmakers, who have stated that the banking language included in House leadership’s latest COVID-19 package is not germane and is simply part of a liberal wish list.
The letter goes on to say that passing the Secure