Following marijuana legalization in New York, Association urges Congress to pass SAFE Banking Act

The New York Credit Union Association on Thursday sent letters to New York state members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging that they address the issue of the legality of marijuana banking under federal law once and for all. New York has officially joined the growing list of states that have legalized adult-use recreational marijuana, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act into law this week.

In the letter, William J. Mellin, Association president/CEO, said that the Association strongly supports The SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1996) and similar federal legislation that would permit credit unions and other institutions to serve the needs of the marijuana sector without fear of prosecution. Under the bill, credit unions and banks would be legally authorized to provide banking services in states that have chosen to legalize cannabis while at the same time not infringing on the prerogative of those states which have not yet chosen to take similar action.

Currently, marijuana at the federal level remains an illegal Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that, if a financial institution chooses to provide banking services to a marijuana-related business, even in states where marijuana has been legalized, they could potentially be prosecuted for violating anti-money laundering and other federal laws.

While the Association takes no position on whether or not individual credit unions should or should not provide banking services to marijuana-related businesses, it strongly believes that it is in everyone’s best interest that money related to this billion dollar industry be secured in responsible financial institutions.

“Like any other business, marijuana-related businesses need access to the financial system,” the letter stated. “As locally owned, community-based financial institutions, credit unions are ideal financial partners for this fledgling, multi-billion dollar industry. But there is far too much legal and regulatory ambiguity surrounding the marijuana industry, and these issues can only be addressed at the federal level.”

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