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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

34 state AGs urge inclusion of cannabis banking legislation in Covid-19 relief

State Issues State Attorney General Covid-19 Federal Issues Federal Legislation Cannabis Banking SAFE Act

State Issues

On May 19, a group of 34 state attorneys general wrote to congressional leaders urging the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in any future Covid-19 relief package. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House in September 2019 and would provide a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that has implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability in the marijuana industry. In the letter, the attorneys general outline three reasons legislative action for cannabis banking is needed based on the Covid-19 pandemic: (i) cash-intensive business models could be a target of increased criminal activity; (ii) large cash transactions place the public and government officials at heightened risk of virus exposure; and (iii) tax revenue from over $15 billion in sales in 2019 could provide critical relief for state and local governments. The letter reminds congressional leaders that support for the SAFE Banking Act, or similar legislation, “is not a call for the legalization of medical or retail marijuana in [] jurisdictions that choose not to pursue such an approach,” instead it would be a reflection that “our federalist system of government that is flexible enough to accommodate divergent state approaches.”

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