19 attorneys general urge Congress to give cannabis states access to banking

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A letter to 10 major Congressional leaders from 19 attorneys general asks Congress to push through legislation that would allow states with medical or recreational marijuana laws to bank as other business do.

The group suggests that Congress give special attention to measures such as the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE). Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, introduced the SAFE legislation (S. 1152 and H.R. 2215) last April.

The letter comes only 12 days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, a key marijuana industry safeguard.

Here’s what you need to know:
  • The attorneys general who signed the letter serve Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territory Guam.
  • The AGs wrote: “Because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes. This risk has significantly inhibited the willingness of financial institutions to provide services to these businesses.”
  • Such legislation “would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector, and give law enforcement the ability to monitor these transactions.”
  • The AGs characterize the lack of banking services for the regulated market as a public safety threat because cash-heavy businesses are often targets for criminal activity.
  • The group argues that bank tracking would make tax compliance easier and, thus, result in higher tax revenue.