MWCUA, NWCUA Partner to Present Cannabis Banking Legislative Panel

Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter, Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer join Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s senior policy advisor to discuss how to bring SAFE Banking to the industry

Denver, CO and Portland, OR (March 1, 2021) —  In a unique and first-of-its-kind collaboration, the Mountain West Credit Union Association (MWCUA) and the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) partnered today to present a virtual panel discussion on the topic of cannabis banking. The Associations brought together Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO 7th District), Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR 3rd District) and Christopher Arneson, Senior Policy Advisor for Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), to discuss the unique challenges financial services providers face serving this industry, what legislation is in the pipeline, and how credit unions are involved in the process.

“Typically, this is the week in our industry when the credit union presence on the Hill in Washington is strong,” said Scott Earl, President & CEO of MWCUA. “Because we are having our annual advocacy events virtually, we had an opportunity to work with the Northwest Association to address a topic that is growing across the country. This gave us a forum to bring together the legislative champions on this issue to meet with credit unions across both of our regions. We have a chance to work together to help address a serious need.”

Providing financial services – even to legal cannabis businesses – is challenging. Federal law still considers marijuana to be a narcotic, creating compliance risks for financial institutions that serve the legal businesses in their states.

“Washington, Oregon, and Colorado were among the first states in the country to legalize the use of cannabis,” said Troy Stang, President and CEO, NWCUA. “In these states, legal cannabis businesses are generating billions in economic impact, and employing thousands of workers. Now, with more and more states passing legalization, we felt it was time our organizations led a robust discussion to look into how we can move legislation forward to provide financial services solutions for the industry.”

Today, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 16 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 14 states (plus Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia). A total of 47 states have some form of legal marijuana businesses operating, including products such as CBD, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana.

The panelists discussed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), which would:

  • Give explicit legal clearance for financial institutions to grant banking services to state-sanctioned cannabis businesses and related business entities.
  • Offer much-needed, narrowly targeted federal protections for credit unions and other financial institutions who accept deposits from, extend credit to, or provide payment services for an individual or business engaged in cannabis-related commerce in states where the activity is legal ─ as long as the activity is compliant with all other applicable laws and regulations.
  • Bring revenue from states sanctioned cannabis entities and hemp businesses into the financial services mainstream and, as a result, keeping communities safe by removing vast amounts of cash off the streets.
  • Increase the reporting and transparency of information about the cannabis industry to the benefit of law enforcement, tax revenue officials, and other regulators.

Noting the momentum the Act gained in the last Congress, all panelists said they think it could pass during this session.

“The table is set. We are in an even stronger position in the Senate, and public opinion continues to grow stronger,” said Rep Blumenauer, adding that five new states legalized marijuana in the November elections.

Representative Perlmutter is a longtime friend of credit unions, and specifically, has helped champion efforts to forge a path for safe and necessary financial services for cannabis businesses.

“Thank you to Mountain West Credit Union Association for the opportunity to update members on the status of cannabis banking and the SAFE Banking Act. I appreciate the partnership of the organization and its members as we continue to push forward to ensure equal access and transparency in the financial system,” said Congressman Perlmutter (CO-07).

Sen. Wyden has long supported a federal legislative remedy for financial institutions to serve the legal marijuana industry. In his home state of Oregon, more than 2,500 licensed cannabis businesses are licensed to grow and sell marijuana and marijuana products.

“Outdated federal rules force legal cannabis business owners and employees into the unsafe and unfair practice of carrying around cash when they should have the same access as any other small business to financial institutions,” Wyden said. “Reforming these regulations from yesteryear is essential to long-needed and common-sense overhaul of cannabis policy that lands especially hard on minority, women, and veteran entrepreneurs who just want to create jobs in their communities.”

More than 84 credit union executives from across the two association’s six states attended the virtual event as a kick-off to activities in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference, being held virtually this week. Other events include Hill visits with the region’s legislative members.

About the Mountain West Credit Union Association

The Mountain West Credit Union Association is the regional tri-state trade association representing 119 member credit unions, 4 million credit union members and $58 billion in assets throughout Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming. Not-for-profit in nature, credit unions provide low-cost financial services to their members. Founded in 2011, the Mountain West Credit Union Association serves and supports the interests of member credit unions through advocacy, community outreach, education and training, public affairs, regulatory and compliance services and strategic partnerships. The Mountain West Credit Union Association is affiliated with Credit Union National Association (CUNA), World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and CUNA Mutual Group. Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/mwcua or on Facebook at facebook.com/mwcua.

This event is part of MWCUA’s Advocacy in Action series being held separately, but in conjunction with CUNA’s GAC. The series includes Virtual Hike the Hill visits and other special events throughout the week.

About the Northwest Credit Union Association

The Northwest Credit Union Association is the trade association representing more than 175 not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, and their 8.1  million consumer members. As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions look out for their members’ financial well-being. Everyone should open their eyes to a credit union.  For more information, please visit: https://yourmoneyfurther.com

This event is part of NWCUA’s virtual advocacy events this week, coinciding with the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

CONTACTS:
Patti Hazlett

phazlett@mwcua.com

720-355-2828 (Mobile)

Lynn Heider
lheider@nwcua.org
503.329.7208 (Mobile)