By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
October 13, 2023
A bipartisan bill that critics say would “legitimize” marijuana consumption nationwide passed a U.S. Senate committee late last month and could be headed to the full floor.
The so-called Safer Banking Act (S. 2860) would fully open up the financial and banking industry to state-sanctioned marijuana businesses, thus allowing customers nationwide to use debit and credit cards for cannabis purchases. Currently, such purchases face restrictions, depending on where the customer lives.
Under the Safer Banking Act, a federal banking regulator may not “penalize a depository institution for providing banking services to a state-sanctioned marijuana business,” according to the bill’s summary.
Marijuana is illegal under current federal law. Because of that, some financial institutions have balked at allowing transactions through their systems. This summer, Mastercard said it would no longer allow the purchase of cannabis with its cards.
The sponsors of a similar bill in the House are Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and Rep. Dave Joyce, a Republican from Ohio.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans live in a state where cannabis is legal in some form,” they said in a statement. “It is common sense and an urgent matter of public safety that these legitimate cannabis businesses have access to standard banking services.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is the sponsor in the other chamber. Among the 30 Senate co-sponsors, four are Republican.
The bill passed the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in September.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says that North Carolina’s two U.S. senators — Thom Tillis and Ted Budd – need to be encouraged to oppose the bill.
“We should not compromise the U.S. banking system by giving government approval for illegal activity,” Creech wrote last year in a column opposing the bill. “As long as marijuana remains a federally illegal drug, federally insured banks should continue to treat it as such.”
Further, Creech wrote, “Marijuana’s Schedule 1 status indicates that the drug has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.”
“An industry that profits off its customers’ addiction should not be afforded the financial resources needed to expand and further harm North Carolinians,” Creech wrote. “Despite the assurances of pro-legalization and profit-driven interest groups, the SAFE Banking Act fails to address the fact that marijuana shops increase crime rates and would give financial cover to cartels. Under the guise of improving public safety, this legislation is the latest attempt to legitimize an industry that produces and sells a federally unlawful product.”
Many experts, he wrote, are concerned that the bill “would allow cartels and transnational criminal organizations to launder funds through the financial accounts of marijuana shops.”
“A letter from a bipartisan group of former directors of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a strong warning. They have said, ‘In short, the [Safer] Banking Act could inadvertently allow cartels to bring into banks duffel bags of cash made from the sale of those illicit drugs that are killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.’”
Please contact Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd and urge them to oppose the Safer Banking Act.
Senator Thom Tillis: 202.224.6342
Senator Tedd Budd: 202-224-3154