PROMO 660 x 440 Marijuana - Wikimedia Public Domain

Polis among 21 governors urging Congress to pass cannabis banking reform

Brianna Kraemer | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) — Colorado Governor Jared Polis is leading an effort backed by 20 other state and territory governors to encourage Congress to pass legislation that would allow cannabis-legal states to operate under a new banking system.

The proposed federal legislation would allow banks and credit unions to provide their services to state-licensed cannabis-related businesses such as marijuana dispensaries.

Currently, the nationally recognized Controlled Substance Act places harsh legal risks and liabilities on financial institutions that work with cannabis businesses due to the substance still considered illegal at the federal level. This results in disincentivizing institutions from working with state-licensed cannabis businesses.  

Although mostly signed by Democratic state leaders, Republican governors from North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia also offered their support in the letter as well. The letter was sent to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and requested consideration of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021. 

The letter came after U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., reintroduced the SAFE Act to Congress last month. Perlmutter originally introduced the act in 2019, which was passed by the House and then died in a Senate committee.

The U.S. House passed the legislation on Monday with a considerable amount of bipartisan support.

“We strongly support the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021 (H.R. 1996/S. 910) or similar legislation that would remove the legal uncertainty and allow banks and credit unions to provide services to state-licensed cannabis-related businesses,” the letter reads.  

Currently, 36 states, four U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana while 18 states, two territories and D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The bill would only apply to states that have legalized the substance.  

“I’m proud that my fellow Governors and I are urging Congress to make the common sense decision to allow state-licensed cannabis-related businesses to have normal bank accounts, Polis commented on the effort. “For more than a decade, Colorado has been a model of the success of these businesses and it’s well past time that we allow them to join our banking system. I want to thank Rep. Ed Perlmutter for his tireless efforts and years of dedication on this issue.”

The bill will now go to a Senate committee, where it was turned down just two years ago.