In a continuing effort by forward-thinking U.S. legislators to allow legal cannabis companies to open bank accounts, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) reintroduced a marijuana banking bill to Congress on Tuesday.
H.R. 2076 or “The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015” was crafted “to create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses.”
This legislation is necessary because many financial institutions remain unwilling to conduct monetary transactions with the legal weed industry, despite 2014 guidelines issued by the Obama administration. Those nonbinding memorandums could be undone by the next U.S. president, but an actual law would formally protect the banking industry. Due to marijuana being federally outlawed, too many medical and recreational pot companies are forced to operate using only cash.
“First and foremost this is an issue of public safety,” Perlmutter said. “Not only are the proprietors at risk, but the employees and customers are also at risk of serious and violent crimes.” He said that an estimated 40 percent of Colorado cannabis companies are “unbanked.”
The bill, formally introduced on Wednesday by Perlmutter, co-sponsor Denny Heck (D-WA) and a bipartisan grouping of 16 other U.S. representatives, would also protect FDIC insurance by prohibiting federal regulators from terminating deposit insurance to a bank for servicing pot companies. It would also prevent regulators from forcing banks to downgrade loans or deny other financial services to the marijuana industry. Similar cannabis banking legislation is currently being devised in the U.S. Senate.