Lobbying filings show that few major banks support giving access
The U.S. cannabis industry could do with backup from Wall Street as it pushes for banking reform on Capitol Hill. But the most powerful banks are steering clear—and there’s little immediate sign of that changing.
The SAFE Banking Act, which is currently making its way through the legislative process, would make it easier for cannabis companies to open checking accounts and get business loans. The bill protects banks that handle cannabis cash from prosecution, even while the drug remains federally illegal. That would solve a big headache for pot companies, who often operate on a cash-only basis or pay high fees to local banks and credit unions willing to take the risk of doing business with them.
But Wall Street doesn’t see the bill as a fix for its pot problem. At issue is large banks’ government-mandated insurance and compliance obligations. Cannabis transactions are currently defined as illegal under federal money-laundering rules. Given the multibillion-dollar settlements for money-laundering violations that the financial sector has handed over to the Justice Department in recent years, big banks won’t take risks unless cannabis is fully legal in the U.S.
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