The SAFE Banking Bill That Would Allow Marijuana Bizs Access To Financial Services Has Hit A Snag In The Senate

Brennan Linsley/AP
A customer pays cash for retail marijuana at 3D Cannabis Center, in Denver, May 8, 2014.

Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho ended up giving a little lump of coal to supporters of the SAFE Banking bill.

Crapo, the chair of the Senate Banking Committee, said he doesn't support the SAFE Banking Act as passed in the House in September.

The bill, sponsored in the House by Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter and in the Senate by Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner as well as Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, would have made it easier for licensed marijuana businesses to access financial services.

Crapo said the bill doesn’t “address the high-level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash.”

Instead, he’s asking for input from stakeholders on “how to fix and correct or add to the SAFE Banking Act.”

“All kinds of ideas are on the table in the sense that I’m open to looking at proposals or ideas from the stakeholders and interested parties as to how we solve all these issues,” Crapo said.

He’s specifically asking for suggestions that deal with addressing public health and safety concerns; legacy cash and money laundering; interstate commerce and banking; and hemp provisions; and “Operation Choke Point.”

“Choke Point” was an Obama-era initiative where federal agencies created and relied on a list of merchant categories like payday lenders and firearm manufacturers with the intent of choking off these merchants’ access to payment and banking services. It was added to the House bill to help get Republican support for SAFE.

Gardner said in a statement that he appreciates Sen. Crapo’s willingness to hear public input and feedback on the issue. The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the issue in July.

“Every day that Congress continues to ignore reality, unintended negative consequences pile up for legitimate businesses – both in the cannabis industry and outside it,” Gardner said. “The conflicting federal and state marijuana laws are an impediment to needed relief for those with serious medical issues, and do nothing to help improve law enforcement or transparency in the industry.”

Perlmutter said that while he appreciates Sen. Crapo’s concerns and looks forward to trying to resolve the differences, he added that there is an urgent public safety risk that needs solving.

“I believe our bill, which passed the House with 321 Democratic and Republican votes, responsibly addresses the conflict between state marijuana laws and federal banking laws,” Perlmutter said. “This issue requires a pragmatic approach that takes into the account the will of voters across the country.”