Although marijuana is now legal in a number of states, companies that sell it cannot use banks and credit unions to store funds. Banking association officials from all 50 states – including Idaho – are working to change that. They’re writing to Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, who chairs the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
On March 28, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 to 15 to pass H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019, with 191 cosponsors. But the bill hasn’t passed the House. A Senate version was announced on April 11, with 22 cosponsors.
“Senator Crapo has said that he is very aware of concerns from financial institutions on this front and it is an issue that needs to be addressed, but as long as cannabis is illegal under federal law, it seems difficult for Congress to resolve the issue,” said Amanda Critchfield, Crapo’s spokeswoman. “It is probably something the Department of Justice needs to address before Congress acts. Crapo has not committed to holding a hearing on it, but it is something we are looking at.”
The Independent Community Bankers of America lists the issue as one of its legislative priorities.
According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would increase insured deposits at banks nationwide by about $1.2 billion and at credit unions by about $200 million, beginning in 2022. Those amounts would rise to $2.1 billion and $350 million by 2029.
Cannabis in any form, including industrial hemp, is illegal in Idaho. As long as that is the case, it is uncertain to what degree Idaho banks and credit unions could conduct business with cannabis companies, even if it was allowed on a federal level. Several Idaho banks and credit unions operate in states where cannabis is legal.
Multistate banks and credit unions operating in Idaho generally wouldn’t take a position on the legislation.
“If the legality were to change at the national level, then we would have an opportunity to take another look at it within the markets we serve,” said Kelly McPhee, vice president of communications and public relations for Banner Bank, which operates in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
“As a federally regulated institution, we follow federal laws,” said Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, a spokeswoman for Chase Bank, which operates in 26 states. “We support the ABA in their request for more legislative clarity on a complicated issue.”
“If and when the federal laws are changed, we will address our official opinion with all of the relevant information available at that time,” said Tony Rasmussen, vice president of public relations and financial education for Mountain America Credit Union, which operates in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.