Mellin co-signs letter to Senate banking committee urging ‘safe harbor’ for pot banking

Senate banking committee Chairman Mike Crapo (L) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown.

New York Credit Union Association President/CEO William J. Mellin, along with CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle and 35 other CEOs from state credit union associations/leagues, penned a letter calling on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee to conduct hearings on marijuana banking.

The letter was addressed to committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

In the letter, the CEOs explained that 34 states, including Washington, D.C., have medical cannabis programs, and that 10 states currently have recreational cannabis programs. “The businesses that serve these jurisdictions are thriving and are expected to continue to grow at a fast pace,” they wrote. “Although this industry seems to have reached critical mass for future operation, the legislative and regulatory frameworks have not kept pace. A discussion of proposed resolutions to these issues is warranted.”

The executives noted the lack of legal and regulatory guidance on banking for legitimate pot banking business has created a dangerous and costly environment for all involved since many now operate on a cash basis.

The CEOs explained that credit unions always have and will continue to serve their members to the best of their abilities; however, a lack of guidance and a shaky legal foundation for working with cannabis-related businesses makes it difficult to accomplish this mission.

“If the states continue to allow cannabis businesses to operate legally within their jurisdictions, of which we remain neutral on the issue, it only makes sense to allow for appropriate banking options,” the letter read. “Once again, we urge you to move forward with hearings on safe and efficient banking options for the cannabis industry.”

To tackle the issue, the CEOs urged Congress to advance the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, commonly referred to as the SAFE Banking Act.

As previously reported, the House Financial Services Committee passed the SAFE Banking Act this past March. The legislation would provide a safe harbor for financial institutions, including credit unions, serving marijuana businesses in states where it is legal to do so.

The New York Credit Union Association supports the SAFE Banking Act and will continue to work with lawmakers, their staff and regulators to ensure credit unions can access and serve the cannabis industry.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has gone a step further and introduced legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and remove it from the federal controlled substances list.

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