Attorney General Phil Weiser is leading a coalition of attorneys general in 33 states and territories asking Congress to give marijuana businesses access to the federally-regulated banking system in any forthcoming coronavirus relief legislation.
“[T]hreats to public safety caused by a cash-intensive business model, often the target of criminal activity, have intensified in the months since the pandemic began,” read the letter dated May 19 to the leadership of both political parties in each chamber. “Next, the presence of large cash transactions places law enforcement, tax regulators, consumers and patients at heightened risk of exposure to the virus.”
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter has sponsored, would prohibit penalties for financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses. Because marijuana is still illegal federally, banks cannot transact with growers and dispensaries, leading to a cash-centered operation. The U.S. House of Representatives included Perlmutter's proposal in the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion measure to provide additional payments to individuals and to state and local governments, among other features. The bill has passed the House but has been held up in the Senate.
The attorney generals’ letter went on to clarify that “the enactment of the SAFE Banking Act is not a call for the legalization of medical or retail marijuana in those jurisdictions that choose not to pursue such an approach. Rather, it reflects a recognition of the realities on the ground and an embrace of our federalist system of government that is flexible enough to accommodate divergent state approaches.”