Sen. Mike Crapo Again Asked to Advance SAFE Banking Act

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Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) is once again being urged to markup the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, this time by a coalition of banking associations from 49 states and Puerto Rico.

In a letter sent last Friday, the American Bankers Association (ABA) asked Crapo -- who serves as the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee -- and ranking committee member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to advance the SAFE Banking Act (S. 1200).

“Although we do not take a position on the legalization of marijuana, our members are committed to serving the financial needs of their communities – including those that have voted to legalize cannabis,” the letter reads.

Groups represented in the letter include banking associations from every state except Kentucky. 

Recall, the U.S. the House of Representatives voted 321-103 to pass their version of the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) last September. However, Crapo opposes the legalization of marijuana and does not support the bill as it is written. His argument? 

The SAFE Banking Act “does not address the high level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash to launder money into the financial system,” Crapo wrote last December.

In their effort to persuade Crapo to advance the proposed legislation, the ABA noted that 68% of the U.S. population (across 33 states) has access to legalized cannabis for medical or adult use, and that “the issue could appear on as many as 10 state ballots this November.”

“Despite this ever-growing voter preference, current federal law continues to prevent banks from safely banking these businesses without fear of federal sanctions,” the ABA wrote. “As a result, this segment of our local economies is forced to operate on an all-cash basis, which creates serious public safety, revenue administration, and legal compliance concerns in the communities we serve.”

Proponents of the SAFE Banking Act have long held that its passage would make communities with cannabis businesses safer. Last month, Jim Nussle, the president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), deployed that argument in a letter to Crapo.

“CUNA strongly believes that federal legislation providing these protections is essential to bringing revenue from state-sanctioned cannabis entities and hemp businesses into the financial services mainstream and, as a result, keeping communities safe by removing vast amounts of cash off the streets," he wrote.

In addition to CUNA, various cannabis industry entrepreneurs and lobbyists -- including the National Cannabis Industry Association, Cannabis Trade Federation and dozens of state and local advocacy groups -- have sent letters to Crapo over the last few months.

Meanwhile, the four lead sponsors of H.R. 1595 -- Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Denny Heck (D-WA) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) -- have also asked Crapo to advance the legislation. 

So far, the requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears. In an interview with THCnet last month, NCIA director of public policy Andrew Kline said he believes the chances of SAFE Banking Act gaining traction was “in the 20% range.”

S. 1200 currently has 33 co-sponsors and 4% chance of being enacted, according to GovTrack

However, one of the original co-sponsors, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), addressed the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference last month and hinted that the SAFE Banking Act could be close to advancing.

“We’re close to finding that common ground, and getting everyone signed off to move this forward,” he said.