Bipartisan SAFE Banking Act reintroduced in House, Senate

April 27, 2023

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers reintroduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the U.S. House and Senate Wednesday. Originating sponsors include Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Reps. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. The bills would provide protections for financial institutions serving cannabis-based businesses where it is legal. 

“This legislation provides safe, mainstream options for state-legalized businesses to conduct their financial needs,” said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. “We appreciate Senators Merkley and Daines, and Representatives Joyce and Blumenauer, for introducing this bipartisan legislation in both chambers, and will work to advance the bills this Congress.”  

“We appreciate the steadfast leadership and long-time support of Sen. Merkley and Rep. Blumenauer as they work together to advance legislation that will allow financial institutions to serve legal cannabis businesses,” said Troy Stang, president/CEO of GoWest Credit Union Association. “We greatly appreciate the many members of Congress in the GoWest delegation who have co-sponsored and worked diligently to promote SAFE Banking, as this is a critical public safety issue for our communities, and this is common sense legislation.”

"We are pleased to have Sen. Daines spearhead efforts to develop the regulatory framework that will provide financial services to legal cannabis-related businesses," said Tracie Kenyon, President and CEO of Montana’s Credit Unions. "The SAFE Act not only provides a way for these businesses to conduct transactions, but also provides a vital safety net for employees by providing a secure place for cash and payroll deposits.”

"We would like to express our gratitude to Senator Daines for his leadership in advancing this critical legislation. As credit unions, we prioritize our support for individuals and communities,” said Karen Smith, SVP and chief advocacy officer of Montana’s Credit Unions. “The SAFE Act not only facilitates secure transactions for businesses throughout Montana, but also helps to ensure the financial security of employees by providing a reliable platform for cash and payroll deposits."

“Legal cannabis related businesses need access to safe and affordable financial services,” said Ohio Credit Union League Chief Advocacy Officer Emily Leite. “We appreciate Representative Joyce reigniting the SAFE Banking Act to provide necessary safeguards so credit unions seeking to assist underserved legal cannabis businesses can do so compliantly and confidently.”

An additional 38 Senators and eight House members cosponsored the bills upon introduction. 

The two bills are identical to previously introduced versions of the SAFE Banking Act, which passed the House seven times with strong bipartisan support, with one addition. This version explicitly extends safe harbor to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) to ensure they can also serve legal cannabis-based businesses. 

Credit unions operating in states where marijuana is legal point out the public safety hazard created for communities when cannabis businesses do not have access to mainstream financial systems and are forced to deal in cash only.

CUNA has supported the SAFE Banking Act since it was first introduced in the House and was the first financial trade organization to testify before Congress on the issue. While CUNA has no stance on cannabis legalization, it supports legislation to enable credit unions to serve individuals or businesses that are peripherally or directly engaged in legal marijuana-related commerce.