Blog: Supermajority of polled voters support cannabis banking bill, says ICBA – Financial Regulation News – Financial Regulation News

Newly released poll data from the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) shows that two-thirds (65 percent) of voters support cannabis-related businesses having access to banking services in states where cannabis is legal.

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ICBA says that the results indicate public support for congressional passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021, H.R. 1996, a bipartisan cannabis banking bill approved seven times over the years by the U.S. House of Representatives, but never taken up by the U.S. Senate.

“With voters voicing support, the Senate should act on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation previously passed by the House,” tweeted ICBA on Sept. 6.

H.R. 1996, introduced in March 2021 by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and now cosponsored by 180 of his colleagues, would generally prohibit a federal banking regulator from penalizing a depository institution for providing banking services to a legitimate cannabis-related business, according to the congressional record bill summary.

Prohibited penalties would include terminating or limiting the deposit insurance or share insurance of a depository institution solely because the institution provides financial services to a legitimate cannabis-related business, the summary says, and prohibiting or otherwise discouraging a depository institution from offering financial services to such a business.
Among several provisions, H.R. 1996 also would require that proceeds from a transaction involving activities of a legitimate cannabis-related business not be considered proceeds from unlawful activity.

The House on April 19, 2021, voted 321-101 to pass H.R. 1996. The Senate received H.R. 1996 the next day and referred it for consideration to the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which is also reviewing the same-named companion bill, S. 910, introduced in March 2021 by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The bipartisan Senate version currently has 42 cosponsors.

According to the ICBA poll, which was conducted by Morning Consult, 71 percent of voters agreed that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access the banking system also would help reduce the risk of robbery and assault at cannabis-related businesses — showing the importance of the proposed bill to public safety, according to the group.

In fact, according to the ICBA poll, more than 80 percent of voters said businesses that operate exclusively in cash have a higher risk of robbery or theft.

“U.S. voters have made clear that current law inhibiting access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses has a negative impact on local communities,” said ICBA President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey. “With a supermajority of U.S. voters voicing support for allowing cannabis-related businesses access to the banking system, the Senate should act now on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation that the House has passed seven times.”

At the same time, ICBA said that the bill would advance social equity and help underserved communities based on results showing that 55 percent of polled voters said it would help cannabis-related businesses owned and led by people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.

ICBA’s polling also found that 62 percent of voters agreed that restricting cannabis-related businesses from accessing the banking system poses a threat to public safety, while 63 percent said public safety would be improved if cannabis-related businesses were allowed to access the nation’s banking system.

Similar to provisions in the SAFE Banking Act, 58 percent of voters said it is also important for the Senate to vote on establishing a cannabis banking safe harbor, according to ICBA, which said the bill would establish a safe harbor for financial institutions that serve cannabis-related businesses in states where cannabis is legal.

If enacted, the bill specifically seeks to address a conflict between state and federal law that presents legal uncertainty for community banks, inhibits access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses, and creates public safety concerns by leaving these businesses no alternative than to rely on cash — disproportionately affecting businesses operated by underserved communities, ICBA says.

The Conference of State Banking Supervisors also has endorsed the bill.

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