A bipartisan group on House members on Thursday introduced legislation that would provide credit unions and other financial institutions with a safe harbor from sanctions for doing business with marijuana-related businesses.
Democrats Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Denny Heck of Washington introduced H.R. 1595, which has 99 Democratic cosponsors and nine Republican cosponsors.
“Only Congress can provide the certainty financial institutions need to start banking legitimate marijuana businesses – just like any other legal business – and reduce risks for employees, businesses and communities across the country,” Heck said.
“If Congress fails to act, we are discouraging responsible, regulated markets and allowing a serious public safety threat to go unaddressed,” Heck said.
Under current law, because cannabis is considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, financial institutions providing services to licensed marijuana businesses are subject to criminal prosecution.
As a result, some cannabis-related services, many of which are cash businesses, cannot be provided with traditional banking services.
Perlmutter and Heck have introduced similar legislation in the past. However, this year’s bill includes protections for ancillary businesses, such as real estate owners, adjusts tribal language and changes the definition of cannabis business.
In a recent interview, Perlmutter and Heck said they are pleased with the support their effort has received.
The two are members of the House Financial Services Committee, which recently held a hearing on the issue. H.R. 1595 has been referred to that committee, as well as the House Judiciary Committee.
At that hearing, Rachel Pross, chief risk officer with the Maps Credit Union in Salem, Ore. said that her institution has been providing banking services to cannabis-related businesses since marijuana is legal in that state.
However, she said that her credit union risks federal sanctions for conducting that business and that that risk should be removed.
CUNA and the American Bankers Association have endorsed the legislation. NAFCU has said it supports the concept of the bill, but has not directly endorsed it.
And during a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that Congress should consider providing financial institutions with clarity on the issue.