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Credit Union Assocations Push Congress To Pass Cannabis Banking Reform

December 1, 2021 12:56 pm ET

A group of associations representing American credit unions recently submitted a letter to Congress urging members to pass critical cannabis banking reform legislation. The move is just one in a series of initiatives that aim to protect financial institutions that work with state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators.

Because of cannabis’ status as a Schedule I—aka federally illegal—substance, many banks and credit unions avoid hosting accounts for cannabis-related businesses. With the cannabis industry growing by the day, leaders of the credit union industry are arguing that the existence of safe and regulated spaces for cannabis companies to store funds is important for everyone in society:

“We take no position on legalizing or decriminalizing medicinal or recreational cannabis at either the state or federal level. However, credit unions operating in states where it is legal have members and member businesses involved in the cannabis market who need access to traditional depository and lending services, the absence of which creates a significant public safety issue.”

Specifically, the country’s credit unions are pushing for Congress to include language from the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), according to Marijuana Moment. This would effectively shield financial institutions from federal punishment for housing legal cannabis-related accounts.

The associations also stressed in their letter that the reform would protect all financial institutions, not just those that knowingly serve cannabis businesses. This is because many cannabis companies work with vendors and suppliers that don’t appear to be cannabis-related at first glance. “Under the existing status quo, a credit union that does business with any one of these indirectly affiliated entities could unknowingly risk violating federal law,” the letter states.

The NDAA—with the cannabis banking reform language attached—was already passed by the House in September. Members of the Senate are currently working on their own version of the bill before the final legislation is sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for the final stamp of approval.

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