Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Rep. Perlmutter introduces banking marijuana bill: H.R. 2215

Last week, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) introduced H.R.2215, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2017 (or the SAFE Act of 2017). This bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio).

As noted in last week’s OBA Update, the bill provides, in essence, that a bank or credit union shall not be liable under federal law nor subject to forfeiture for providing financial services to a legitimate marijuana-related business, which is operating in compliance with that state’s law authorizing the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

“This is the bill we’ve been waiting for because it clarifies the conflicts between federal and state law as to whether banks may legally take care of their state-licensed cannabis business customers,” OBA President and CEO Roger Beverage said. “It amends federal law to clarify that proceeds from marijuana-related businesses are not to be considered illegal under money laundering rules or the Controlled Substances Act.”

The bill creates a “safe harbor” for banks that choose to serve MRBs and clarifies the gaps created by the law in Oklahoma and other states for banks dealing either directly or indirectly with marijuana production, transportation or retail business. It clarifies the relationships of bank customers who are landlords, or that finance related entities that touch on “marijuana” commerce.

“The Association neither supports nor opposes the use of marijuana by individuals who are conducting themselves in full compliance with state law,” Beverage said. “It will remove the traps that currently exist and will make it clear that an Oklahoma bank may make its own decision about financing the MRB in some fashion and not having to worry about violating federal law.”

Beverage also pointed out this measure directs FinCEN to issue new guidance and exam procedures as to how the basics of serving MRBs is to be handled going forward.

“We will be asking the Oklahoma delegation in Congress to support this bill,” Beverage said. “It won’t be easy and we have a lot of work to do. But we simply must get clarification and certainty for banks so that they can tend to their customers properly and without having to worry about breaking federal law.

“This is becoming a public safety issue, and it’s coming on very quickly. The last thing we need is to encourage the bad guys to go after legitimate businesses and possibly hurt people simply because Congress refuses to resolve the confusion. They don’t have to make marijuana ‘legal’ if they feel strongly about it; they can simply de-criminalize the mechanics of protecting, processing and controlling the cash that’s coming through the system. We think that’s extremely important and necessary to these businesses.”