ABA, state associations urge passage of SAFE Act

Ahead of a hearing on the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate Banking Committee, the American Bankers Association and 51 state bankers associations urged lawmakers to advance the bill as soon as possible, emphasizing that it would benefit law enforcement efforts, tax collection and public safety. The ABA-backed bill—which has passed the House in seven times in prior Congresses—was introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). Today’s hearing marked the bill’s first consideration in the Senate since 2019.

“The inability of the state-licensed cannabis industry to access safe and regulated financial services is a pressing concern for so many of our nation’s communities and the banks that serve them,” the associations wrote. “With state-licensed cannabis businesses currently authorized in 38 states and more states weighing legalization, we urge you to address these critical issues by marking up and advancing the SAFE Banking Act as quickly as possible.”

During the hearing, Sen. Merkley—who testified as one of the bill’s key sponsors—also emphasized the money laundering risks that exist due to the legal cannabis industry’s cash economy. “There is nothing like a cash economy to facilitate money laundering,” he said. “The lack of electronic records in this world makes it really easy to move money that shouldn’t be moved.”