Police group endorsed the bill, statement below
Washington, D.C. -- Today, the US House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595) by a margin of 321-103. Though marijuana remains illegal federally, the bill would permit financial institutions, which are overseen by the federal government, to work with marijuana businesses in states where the drug is now legally regulated. This version of the bill garnered more than 200 cosponsors, while the Senate version pulled in 33.
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of police, judges, and other law enforcement experts arguing for improvements to the criminal justice system, endorsed the legislation. The bill would enhance safety for industry workers forced to handle large amounts of cash, enhance safety for the general public, and enable law enforcement to use financial records to better investigate organized crime
Bill author Rep. Ed Perlmutter from Colorado invited LEAP executive director and 34-year police veteran Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) to testify on behalf of the SAFE Banking Act in the House Financial Services subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions earlier this year. He testified alongside California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and representatives from the finance industry.
“Prohibiting banking access means hundreds of millions of dollars in legal marijuana markets are exchanged in cash rather than with credit or debit cards, which make them more difficult to track. Keeping tabs on those transactions is part of how police are able to catch serious criminals, but our ability to do that right now is limited,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “The longer we wait to fix this, the more vulnerable the industry becomes to infiltration by organized crime.”
Securely housing and moving large sums of cash from one location to another also presents unique challenges while creating easy targets for thieves. Banking restrictions have contributed to considerable financial loss and horrific incidents victimizing store operators. They also produce safety and logistical difficulties for tax collectors, who must find ways to securely handle sums of voluminous physical cash.
LEAP emphasizes the importance of legalizing marijuana for adult use at the federal level and repairing the damage done to communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition.
An October 2018 poll found 66% of Americans support legalizing marijuana.