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Courtney Helps Pass Cannabis Banking Bill with More Bipartisan Support Than Ever Before

April 21, 2021
Press Release
The SAFE Banking Act passed in a strong bipartisan vote, which was applauded by the CT Bankers Association

WASHINGTON, DC—This week, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) voted to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1996). The SAFE Banking Act would allow hemp and marijuana-related businesses in states with existing regulatory structures to access the banking system, supporting farmers and small businesses, and improving public safety in communities across the country by getting cash off of the streets through the form of legal, regulated cannabis. Rep. Courtney is an original cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, which passed the House by a vote of 321-101—an even greater bipartisan margin than when similar legislation passed the House in 2019, during the 116th Congress.

“Congress needs to work together to keep the economic recovery going, and the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act would help farmers and small businesses in eastern Connecticut finally access the financial services they need to operate competitively,” said Congressman Courtney. “Our hemp farmers and medical marijuana dispensary owners have been working in accordance with state law for years now, and the local banking institutions they work with shouldn’t be penalized at the federal level for offering services to companies and farmers that we here in Connecticut have allowed to do business—especially not while folks have been working so hard to make it through the pandemic. I’ve worked alongside our farmers and local stakeholders for years to help give Connecticut’s hemp industry the green light, and I was proud to help pass the SAFE Banking Act on their behalf.”

“This bill has now passed the House twice, both times with overwhelming bipartisan support, and that’s thanks to the hard work of my friend and colleague Congressman Ed Perlmutter,” Courtney continued. “The SAFE Banking Act is good for eastern Connecticut farmers and small businesses, and it’s his leadership that has resulted in this massive bipartisan shift in support for the effort. I encourage the Senate to not allow this bill to go unanswered again—they should follow the House’s lead, and take the SAFE Banking Act up for a vote without delay.”

“The House passage of the SAFE Banking Act is an important step forward in dealing with the conflicts between state and federal laws which impact the cannabis industry’s ability to access standard banking services,” Connecticut Bankers Association President & CEO Tom Mongellow said. “It will allow banks to work safely with legal and highly regulated cannabis-related businesses, both in our state and across the country. We applaud Congressman Courtney and his colleagues for their bipartisan efforts to move the bill forward and are hopeful that the Senate will take up the measure as well. While the banking industry does not take a position on the legalization of marijuana, we realize 36 states have some form of legalized cannabis and believe now is the time to allow the local businesses that drive this industry to access the banking system in a normal way, versus having to deal only in cash. Without the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, that entire portion of economic activity in those 36 states, will continue to be marginalized from the banking system.”

Congressman Courtney is an original cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, and was also an original co-sponsor of the bill in the previous 116th Congress. Courtney has previously voiced support for and provided updates on the SAFE Banking Act while touring medical marijuana dispensaries in Uncasville and in Willimantic, and at hemp farms in Enfield and elsewhere. Rep. Courtney will be joining local small businesses for similar meetings in the coming weeks—more information will be available soon.

Because cannabis remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, financial institutions providing banking services to legitimate and licensed cannabis businesses under state laws are subject to criminal prosecution under several federal statutes, such as “aiding and abetting” and money laundering. Therefore, businesses that grow, market or sell cannabis in states that have legalized its sale are effectively locked out of the banking system, making it difficult for them to maintain checking accounts, access credit, accept credit and debit cards, meet payroll, pay tax revenue, and more. These restrictions often result in businesses operating in all cash—a serious public safety risk for communities.

The SAFE Banking Act seeks to address these concerns by harmonizing federal and state law, prohibiting federal regulators from taking punitive measures against depository institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses and ancillary businesses that serve them. The bill would allow tightly regulated marijuana businesses to access the banking system, and would provide protections from money laundering laws for any proceeds derived from state-legal marijuana businesses. The bill would get cash off of the streets and into the financial system, which is built to root out fraud and illicit activity. H.R. 1996 also includes the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act and protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD related businesses, which still struggle in accessing financial services despite the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, which Rep. Courtney helped to pass.