Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is one of more than three dozen attorneys general urging legislators to support a federal marijuana banking bill that would allow banks and other financial institutions to work with state-licensed cannabis companies.
In a letter sent to congressional leaders Wednesday, the attorneys general asked Congress to advance the legislation, dubbed the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. Healey was one of 38 who signed the letter from various US states and territories.
“Despite the contradictions between federal and state law, the marijuana industry continues to grow rapidly,” the attorneys general wrote. “Industry analysts estimate 2017 sales at $8.3 billion and expect those totals to exceed $25 billion by 2025. Yet those revenues are handled outside of the regulated banking system.”
Thirty-three states and several US territories have legalized the use of medical marijuana in some form, the letter points out. Ten of those states, plus Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.
Margaret Quackenbush, a spokeswoman for Healey, said Wednesday that the banking system needs to meet the needs of Massachusetts’ growing marijuana industry.
“It’s in the interest of public safety that marijuana-related businesses be able to access the regulated banking system rather than be forced to operate on a cash-only basis,” Quackenbush wrote in an e-mail.
Without banking services, the attorneys general wrote in their letter, the companies have been operating in a “grey market.”
“The resulting grey market makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation and regulatory compliance purposes, contributes to a public safety threat as cash-intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of billions in finances across the nation,” the letter says.
The attorneys general also write that with the “regulated tracking of funds in the banking system,” tax revenues could ultimately rise alongside the marijuana industry.
“Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states and territories, with state and territorial input, while protecting the interests of the federal government,” the letter says. “This includes a banking system for marijuana-related businesses that is both responsive and effective in meeting the demands of our economy.”
The SAFE Banking Act was filed in the Senate in mid-April, and a key House committee voted in favor of an identical proposal last month.
Proponents of the bill have said it will provide more choices and greater convenience for cannabis companies, while also possibly driving down the cost of marijuana products.