As we’ve written about over the past several years, there have been consistent rallying cries for common-sense banking reform for the cannabis industry.

The SAFE Banking Act, which would allow federally regulated financial institutions to work with state-legal cannabis businesses, has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives a whopping seven times. However, the Senate has yet to take up the SAFE Banking Act, ever – despite the fact that it’s sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley and has 42 co-sponsors.

The ICBA letter

The Independent Community Bankers Association (“ICBA”) is now urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to do something with the bill by the end of the year, in this lame duck session of Congress. The letter penned by the ICBA and 44 state banking associations states:

This legislation enjoys strong, bipartisan support, would resolve a conflict between state and federal law, and addresses a critical public safety concern. We urge its enactment without further delay … The Act would create a safe harbor from federal sanctions for financial institutions that serve cannabis-related businesses (CRBs), as well as the numerous ancillary businesses that serve them, in states and other jurisdictions where cannabis is legal. Recent polling found that two-thirds of voters support cannabis banking access.

The ICBA survey: this is what the people want!

The letter cites to that ICBA survey conducted in September 2022 – wherein 71% of voters agree that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access the banking system “would help reduce the risk of robbery and assault at cannabis-related businesses — showing the importance of the policy to public safety.”

The ICBA’s polling also found:

  • More than 80% of voters say that operating exclusively in cash increases the risk of robbery or theft.
  • 62% agree that restricting cannabis-related businesses from accessing banks is a threat to public safety.
  • 63% agree that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access banks will improve public safety.
  • 58% say a Senate vote on establishing a safe harbor for cannabis banking is important.

But will the Safe Banking Act move?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time players in both the banking and cannabis industries have been ignored by the Senate: similar letters have been sent and publicized throughout the years. While we’re doubtful that this will move the needle, we will continue to hope that this critical legislative reform will happen very soon for everyone’s benefit.