H.R.2076 – To create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Perlmutter, Ed [D-CO-7] (Introduced 04/28/2015)
Committees: House – Financial Services; Judiciary
Latest Action: 04/28/2015 Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
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.
Banks have refused the accounts of marijuana-related business over fear of being accused of money laundering and drug trafficking. The federal government does not recognize state’s authority to allow marijuana businesses and considers these businesses illegal.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., for example, is one of three banking regulators that has not issued specific guidance for banks on doing business with the marijuana industry. However, federal law requires banks to report suspicious activity.

Updating federal banking laws and regulations to resolve conflicts between federal and state laws, the legislation allows marijuana-related businesses to access the banking system, ensuring these businesses do not have to operate on a cash-only basis, Perlmutter said in statement issued Wednesday. In addition, a similar companion bill in the Senate is expected to be introduced soon.

“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.”

It is estimated that 40 percent of the marijuana-related businesses in Colorado are unbanked, he said.

“This means hundreds of millions of dollars in cash are moving around the streets of Colorado,” Perlmutter said.

The issue, which was only the issue of a few states, is now the story in many states, he said. There now are 23 states plus the District of Columbia where voters have allowed for some use of marijuana, and more are expected, he said.

Heck said the federal government can’t keep an eye on business practices if they are forcing them offline and underground.

“Forcing businesses into cash-only territory is a dangerous step away from legitimacy, transparency and regulation, and a huge step towards crime, tax evasion and access to minors,” he said. “We’ve got to stop that trend, and with more states legalizing recreational or medical use of marijuana, no time is better than now to move forward with this change to the law.”

The proposed legislation would remove current legal uncertainty by providing a “safe harbor” and additional civil protections for depository institutions who provide a financial product or service to a covered business, they said. For example, federal banking regulators would not be able to threaten or limit a bank or credit union’s deposit insurance, take any action or downgrade a loan made to a covered business, or force a depository institution to halt providing any kind of banking services to a marijuana-related legitimate business. Allowing tightly regulated marijuana businesses the ability to access the banking system significantly reduces the public safety threat, they said.

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The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015
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