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Bill Introduced Would Give Alaska Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking

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Representative Don Young, along with a group of bipartisan supporters, introduced a bill requesting access to banks for marijuana industry businesses. The bill would pertain to marijuana businesses in states where marijuana is legal in some form. In the U.S. Senate, a similar bill is expected to be re-introduced.

Young said, “As a co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, one of my top priorities is ensuring marijuana-related businesses have access to the banking system and can operate in accordance with state law.”

Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana, including Alaska, The Cordova Times reports. Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Efforts by some members of Congress are attempting to bring federal and state marijuana laws together – especially in regards to banking issues.

Young also said, “This legislation is an important step to ensuring marijuana businesses in states that have legalized- who continue to operate in a very uncertain and insecure environment without access to banks or financial institutions – can be treated fairly and as legitimate contributors to state and local economies.”

Representative Ed Perlmutter said, “With the majority of states now allowing some form of recreational or medical marijuana, we have reached a tipping point on this issue and it’s time for Congress to act. Allowing tightly regulated marijuana businesses the ability to access the banking system will help reduce the threat of crime, robbery and assault in our communities and keep the cash out of cartels.”

The legislation is called the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act). Banks would be ensured that they could service these businesses without interference from the federal government. Part of the argument for this bill’s need is the threat to public safety when the businesses can only work with cash.

As it stands now, banks working with marijuana businesses could be charged with aiding and abetting a federal crime and/or money laundering under both the Controlled Substances Act and federal banking regulations.

Safe harbor protections would be in place for banks wishing to work with the businesses. Limits to deposit insurance would not be permitted nor threatened. Loans would not be permitted to downgrade or have action taken against them. The federal banking regulators would not be allowed to force banks (depository institutions) to stop banking services to legitimately operating marijuana businesses.