HELENA — When adult-use marijuana sales begin in Montana on January First, it appears marijuana businesses will still face hurdles in accessing banking services.
The federal SAFE Banking Act, intended to make it easier for banks to work with recreational and medical marijuana businesses, missed out this week on one of its best chances to pass before the end of the year. The provision was left out of the final version of a must-pass defense bill.
Sen. Steve Daines is the lead Republican sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is a co-sponsor. The act would prevent federal banking regulators from taking action against banks or credit unions that work with cannabis businesses, as long as they are following their state laws.
Supporters say, since much of the marijuana industry still operates in cash, it puts them at greater risk for robberies and other crimes and makes it harder to crack down on tax evasion. They say giving them better access to financial services could help address those issues.
The House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act in September by attaching it to the National Defense Authorization Act, one of the main annual defense policy and funding bills. However, it was removed from the bill after negotiations between the House and Senate.
Some Democrats in the Senate, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, have wanted to hold off on the banking provision until a broader marijuana bill can be passed. They’ve said it’s important to make sure the eventual marijuana policy addresses restorative justice issues like decriminalization and expungement.
In a statement Thursday, Daines’ office says the SAFE Banking Act enjoys broad bipartisan support and that he will continue to work to pass it as a standalone bill.