September 26, 2019

House passes bill to give FIs marijuana banking safe harbor

Capitol HillThe House Wednesday passed legislation designed to provide a safe harbor for credit unions and other lenders that serve marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) in states that have legalized the drug. This is the first vote by Congress to do so; Senate Banking Committee leaders have indicated their desire to consider similar legislation.

Prior to advancing the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, H.R. 1595, to the full chamber, the House Financial Services Committee adopted three amendments to clarify the safe harbor's applicability, extend it to insurers, and require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the effectiveness of reports on suspicious transactions filed.

While NAFCU has not taken a position on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, the association encourages Congress to consider legislative complexities and notes the benefits of a strong safe harbor for financial institutions that wish to serve MRBs. The association also highlights that a number of compliance challenges remain.

At NAFCU's Congressional Caucus earlier this month, the association hosted a panel discussion focused on the regulatory landscape of serving MRBs, consumer trends, and more. A number of lawmakers at Caucus also gave insights into the issue.

Relatedly, federal laws and regulations regarding hemp – which comes from the same plant family as marijuana but has a different chemical makeup and is primarily used for industrial purposes – have recently changed. As a result, the NCUA issued interim guidance for credit unions interested in serving hemp-related businesses.

NAFCU has available a new FAQ document and several other resources on marijuana banking, including a pros and cons document and an extensive issue brief. NAFCU will continue to update these documents as discussions progress on Capitol Hill, and as credit unions raise additional questions.