U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has introduced the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 in the Senate. The bill, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, would give state-compliant cannabis businesses access to the banking system by protecting financial institutions against prosecution or asset forfeiture for providing services to those businesses.
Sen. Merkley is joined on the bill by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Rand Paul (R-KY). Similar legislation has been proposed in the House in recent years, but this is the first piece of stand-alone banking access legislation to be introduced in the Senate. The new bill is the result of unrelenting lobbying efforts by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), an organization founded for the purpose of expanding business opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors in the cannabis industry.
According to NCIA, the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015 would give legitimate businesses acting in compliance with state marijuana laws access to the banking system, including protection against prosecution or asset forfeiture solely for providing services to a state-sanctioned marijuana-related business.
Financial institutions who provide banking services to legitimate marijuana businesses are currently vulnerable to criminal prosecution under Federal law. Few banks are willing to risk providing services to marijuana-related businesses, leaving many of them cut off by financial institutions and unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. Marijuana-related legitimate businesses have lost their accounts at both banks and credit unions because of the uncertainty.
Forcing business to operate in all cash creates a serious safety risk for the businesses and the neighboring community. By allowing banks to service legitimate state-regulated marijuana businesses, this bill will help law enforcement protect our communities, and help state and federal taxing agencies collect taxes due on state-sanctioned marijuana sales.
The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015:
- Provides safe harbor for depository institutions by preventing Federal banking regulators
o Terminating or limiting a depository institutions’ Deposit Insurance under the FDIC for
providing services to a state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business solely because
that institution is providing services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated
o Prohibiting, penalizing, or discouraging a depository institutions from providing financial
services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business;
o Recommending or incentivizing a depository institution to halt or downgrade providing
any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
o Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a marijuana-related business.
- Creates safe harbor from liability and asset forfeiture for institutions and their officers and
employees who provide financial services to legitimate marijuana businesses pursuant to
- Does not require a depository institution to provide financial services to a marijuanarelated
- Requires depository institutions to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) under the Bank
Secrecy Act pursuant to relevant Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)