Attorney General Ford Joins Coalition Urging Congress to Increase Access to Banking and Financial Services for State-Licensed Cannabis Businesses

Sept. 28, 2023

Carson City, NV – Today, Attorney General Ford announced he has joined a coalition of 22 Attorneys General in submitting comments urging congressional leaders to advance the SAFER Banking Act of 2023 to lift banking restrictions that prevent state-licensed cannabis businesses from accessing a full range of regulated banking and financial services.

    The coalition, led by Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown; Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb; and Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, sent their letter to Congress Wednesday, the same day the SAFER Banking Act moved through the Senate Banking Committee.

    “It is long past time that Congress specifically lifts the restrictions that make it so difficult for regulated cannabis businesses to access banking,” said AG Ford. “Without access to financial services, these businesses are subjected to increased safety concerns and unable to run their businesses with the same methods as other, similarly regulated industries. Nevada’s cannabis businesses deserve the same security and safety as every other local business that drives our economy.”

      Despite the growing number of states who have legally authorized, regulated cannabis businesses, cannabis remains classified as an illegal substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes. Because cannabis remains classified as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis dispensaries and related businesses are at risk for criminal and civil liability.

      This risk has significantly inhibited the ability of financial institutions to provide services to regulated cannabis operators and leaves those businesses struggling to find financing. The lack of access to banking services creates both barriers to entry into the industry and instability for existing businesses. In addition, the current banking restrictions constrict state agencies’ effort to collect taxes and conduct oversight. Further, as too many states have seen, when regulated businesses can only conduct business in cash, employees and customers are at greater risk of violent crime in pursuit of that cash.

        The Attorneys General argue that passage of the SAFER Banking Act, which will enable regulated banks and financial institutions to provide services to state-licensed cannabis businesses, will enable economic growth, facilitate state oversight of tax obligations and reduce the public safety risks associated with high-value, cash-based businesses. The SAFER Banking Act would establish a safe harbor for depository institutions providing a financial product or service to a regulated business in states that have regulations to ensure accountability in the cannabis industry.

        The Attorneys General argue that an effective safe harbor would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector, enabling law enforcement, federal, state, and local tax agencies, and cannabis regulators in thirty-eight states and several territories to more effectively monitor and ensure compliance of cannabis businesses and their transactions.

        Joining this coalition along with AG Ford are the Joining the Maryland, Washington D.C., and Oklahoma–led comments are the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.