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Daines and Tester-supported marijuana banking legislation is once again being considered



Helena, Montana — In 2022, the first year that marijuana was legally sold for recreational purposes in Montana, sales reached a total of almost $300 million.

However, the sector has few options when it comes to moving that money through the financial system, despite the fact that roughly half of U.S. states currently permit some sort of legalized sales. This is due to the fact that marijuana remains an illicit substance at the federal level.

The two senators from Montana are once more supporting a measure that would provide marijuana firms access to more financial institutions. The SAFE Banking Act has been submitted during each of the last three congressional sessions and has had support from both sides of the aisle, but the Senate has never approved it. Advocates are expecting that this year will mark a turning point.

This week, the Senate Banking Committee held the bill’s initial hearing. If marijuana businesses are regulated and abiding by state law, it would preclude federal banking regulators from taking action against banks or credit unions that do business with them.

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana has been the primary Republican sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act for the past two sessions. He claimed he’s heard from local law enforcement concerned about safety issues when a business is so dependent on cash in an interview with MTN this week.

“I don’t support the legalization of cannabis personally; Montanans voted that in, though, overwhelmingly, in the last election,” he said. “This is really dealing with, what do we do now about the public safety issues when you have an all-cash business? It creates a lot more crime. So putting that cash in the bank is one way to take some of that crime off the street. That’s an appealing argument for many Republicans.”

According to Daines, the bill has undergone changes this year that he thinks will help it gain GOP support. He also feels that there are many provisions in the plan that Democrats can support.

“I think we’ve got a chance here to get a bipartisan, pretty strong vote on the floor of the United States Senate and to get it passed into law sometime this year,” he said.

Since 2019, Democratic Senator Jon Tester has cosponsored the SAFE Banking Act. When the bill was presented this year, he said that the existing regulations put firms at risk of tax fraud and safety problems.

“As a third generation Montana farmer, I know how important it is for small businesses in rural America to have access to capital,” he said in a statement to MTN this week. “Our bipartisan Safe Banking Act is a commonsense fix that allows legally operated Montana small businesses to access the financial services that they need to thrive, and it makes our communities safer by cutting down on cash-motivated crimes. I’m proud to be a leader on this bipartisan bill, and I’m looking forward to getting it across the finish line.”

Supporters of the SAFE Banking Act attempted to attach it to a necessary defense funding package at the end of 2021, but they were unsuccessful.

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