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March 24, 2021

King Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Provide Maine’s Legal Cannabis Businesses Access to Banks, Financial Services

As industry expands in Maine, legislation would provide protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD related businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) cosponsored the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, bipartisan legislation that would ensure legal cannabis businesses can access the same banking services utilized by all other legal businesses. The bill would solve a key logistical and public safety problem in states like Maine that recently have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis. Senator King also cosponsored the SAFE Banking Act during the 116th Congress; the legislation was included in the HEROES Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2020.

“A business that follows all state laws should be able to access America’s banking system – not forced to operate in the shadows,” said Senator King. “As Maine’s cannabis industry has grown in recent years, forcing this industry to operate on a cash-only basis presents a number of safety, logistical, and legal concerns. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: pass this legislation, which will ensure that businesses that follow state laws can access the banking system.”

Currently, many cannabis businesses operating under state laws that have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis are denied access to the banking system because they can be prosecuted under federal banking law. Without the ability to access bank accounts, accept credit cards, or write checks, businesses must operate using large amounts of cash. This creates safety risks for businesses and surrounding communities, and makes it more difficult for local and state governments to collect taxes.

To address the safety concerns resulting from these state legal businesses being shut out of banking services, the SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as an lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
  • Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.

The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services. Additionally, the SAFE Banking Act would require banks to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance, while at the same time allowing FinCEN guidance to be streamlined over time as states and the federal government adapt to legalized medicinal and recreational cannabis policies.

In addition to Senator King, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).

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