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The interior of Cresco Labs LLC’s new commercial growing facility in Marshall. The interior of Cresco Labs LLC’s new commercial growing facility in Marshall. COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer joins bipartisan call to pass federal cannabis banking regulations

BY Wednesday, November 10, 2021 03:28pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has joined 20 other governors in urging Congress to enact legislation that would enable more banks and credit unions to serve the growing cannabis industry.

Whitmer has twice before urged the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would ban federal regulatory agencies from penalizing banks and credit unions for servicing cannabis businesses.

Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level despite some form of legalization in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Financial institutions that want to serve cannabis businesses must follow stringent reporting and monitoring requirements and avoid running afoul with federal regulators.

In repeating her support for the SAFE Banking Act, Whitmer noted that Michigan voters in 2018 “made loud and clear that they support the full legalization and regulation of adult-use cannabis, and we must respect the will of the voters.”

In September, Federal lawmakers who support the bill added the SAFE Banking Act to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2022, which appropriates U.S. Department of Defense spending.

The letter to Congress signed by a bipartisan coalition of governors in 21 states and two territories — plus the mayor of the District of Columbia — said that the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. “is too large of a market to be prohibited from banking opportunities.”

“Medical and recreational cannabis sales in the U.S. were estimated to total $17.5 billion last year, but because of antiquated federal banking regulations, almost all cannabis transactions are cash-based. Not only are cash-only businesses targets for crime, cannabis businesses are further disadvantaged compared to other legal businesses by being unable to open bank accounts or obtain loans at reasonable rates,” the governors wrote. “The SAFE Banking Amendment will remedy these harms and help keep communities in our states and territories safe by allowing legitimate and legal cannabis companies to access banking services.”

In Michigan, the sale of adult-use recreational and medical marijuana has exceeded $2.64 billion this year, according to the latest monthly report by the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

Recreational marijuana sales were $124.8 million in September and totaled $1.47 billion for the first nine months of 2021. Medical marijuana sales hit $36.4 million in September and $1.17 billion year-to-date.

“Simply put, this is a public safety issue that Congress has a responsibility to address. The SAFE Banking Act has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times, but the Senate has never voted on the measure,” the coalition wrote in the letter to congressional leaders. “The SAFE Banking Act has more bipartisan support than ever before and Congress must take steps to ensure that this measure is included in the final version of the NDAA that goes to President Biden’s desk.”

As marijuana sales have grown, more banks and credit unions across the state have entered the market, as both MiBiz and Crain’s Detroit Business have recently reported.

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