by Michelle Rutter, NCIA Government Relations Manager
A week ago today, the House Financial Services Committee made history.
On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions held its first ever hearing on marijuana and financial services, entitled: Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses. Up for discussion was a new draft of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which is expected to be introduced at the end of the month by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the House and Senate, respectively. Compared to last session’s SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 2215), the discussion draft of this session’s bill has some differences: it adds protections for ancillary businesses providing products or services to a cannabis-related legitimate business; specifies how businesses on tribal land could qualify; and requires the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help financial institutions lawfully serve cannabis-related legitimate businesses.
NCIA was proud to work closely with the offices leading the effort, members of the subcommittee, and witnesses leading up to this historic hearing. NCIA submitted written testimony that was introduced for the record by Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) during the hearing. In addition to submitting our own testimony, NCIA called upon its members to submit their own stories and tell us why the cannabis banking crisis needs to be fixed. By doing so, we were able to submit nearly 100 personal stories that are now a part of the congressional record. Congressman Perlmutter even read three of those testimonies aloud at the hearing!
According to the hearing documents, “An increasing number of financial institutions have expressed interest in providing banking services to state authorized cannabis-related businesses as nearly all states have authorized various degrees of cannabis use, such as for medical use. However, many financial institutions are refraining from offering banking services to these businesses based on several legal and compliance risks. Furthermore, public safety and other concerns have been expressed by stakeholders, including state and local government officials regarding cannabis-related businesses having difficulties accessing basic banking services, such as depositing large sums of cash from their business activity.”
Witnesses for the majority (Democrats) included :
- Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
- Fiona Ma, California State Treasurer
- Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), Baltimore City & Maryland State Police Departments and Executive Director, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)
- Rachel Pross, Chief Risk Officer, Maps Credit Union, on behalf of Credit Union National Association (CUNA)
- Gregory S. Deckard, President, CEO and Chairman, State Bank Northwest, on behalf of Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA)
- Corey Barnette, Owner, District Growers Cultivation Center & Metropolitan Wellness Center
The minority (Republicans) invited Jonathan Talcott, partner at Nelson Mullins and board member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (Project SAM) to speak at the hearing. Interestingly, in 2018, Nelson Mullins was paid $200,000 to lobby on behalf of cannabis company WeedMaps. The company has since found another firm to represent them.
This hearing was an historic and important first step in solving the cannabis banking crisis. In the coming months, we are hopeful that the House Financial Services Committee will hold an additional hearing and potentially even a mark-up on the SAFE Banking Act. You can also take a behind the scenes look at this video from the hearing day.
While NCIA is making change and advancing our issues every day, there’s still much work to do! Make sure to mark your calendars for our 9th Annual Cannabis Industry Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. on May 21-23 so that you can tell congressional offices your personal story. There’s strength in numbers, and we can’t do it without you!