The SAFE Banking Act of 2019 prevents a federal banking regulator from:
The SAFE Banking Act also:
The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protections and Financial Institutions held a hearing, “Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses”, on February 13. The bill was reported favorably by the Committee on March 28 on a bipartisan vote of 45-15.
The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act (S. 1028, H.R. 2093) was introduced on April 4, 2019 by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03).
The bill would amend Part G of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801) so that actions in compliance with state marijuana laws:
No hearings or markups have been scheduled by the House or Senate Judiciary Committees.
Appropriations amendments that would address banking access have been proposed every year since 2014; each year the amendments have been stripped out in conference committee or blocked by the Chairman of the House Rules Committee.
None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to penalize a financial institution solely because the institution provides financial services to an entity that is a manufacturer, producer, or a person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling marijuana, marijuana products, or marijuana proceeds, and engages in such activity pursuant to a law established by a State or a unit of local government.
It's possible that the amendment could advance as part of the FY20 appropriations process.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) directive on cannabis enforcement priorities
A financial institution banking cannabis-related business should conduct enhanced due diligence on those customers:
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo on January 4, 2018.
During his January 2019 confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee William Barr stated:
“I’m not going to go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum... My approach to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliance interest that have arisen as a result of the Cole memorandum and investments have been made.”
Despite 47 states acknowledging its medical benefits, cannabis is still considered an illegal substance under federal law.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is categorized as Schedule I, making any activity related to marijuana illegal under federal law, regardless of state laws.
Schedule I designation requires:
An appropriate type of Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) must be filed if a customer's actions suggest that he is laundering money or otherwise violating federal criminal laws and committing wire transfer fraud, check fraud, or mysterious disappearances. Funds derived and/or deposited from marijuana-related businesses are derived from an illegal activity under federal law.
The Federal Reserve, the OCC, and the FDIC have not issued any specific guidance on banking cannabis-related businesses, though there has been some indication over the last few years that such guidance is being considered.
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