Nov 13, 2019
Sen. King Urges Consideration of SAFE Banking Act

U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) sent a letter to U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Member of the Committee, urging consideration of the House-passed Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.

The bipartisan bill would ensure that legal hemp and cannabis businesses can access the same financial services utilized by all other legal businesses. The bill has already passed the House of Representatives by a 321-103 vote, and would solve key logistical and public safety problems in states like Maine that recently have legalized medicinal or recreational cannabis. Sen. King is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation.

Sen. King’s request of the Committee comes on the heels of after a report by the Portland Press Herald highlighted the impact that the Senate’s inaction on the bill already has had on two Maine farmers, who have lost their bank account and insurance coverage as a result of their decision to legally farm hemp.

“Hemp businesses in Maine face banking access issues that threaten the viability of their operations. They need our help,” wrote Sen. King. “I urge you to mark up the House-passed SAFE Banking Act (H.R.1595) and report this important legislation out of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs speedily so that our hemp businesses can obtain the financial services they require.”

“People like Taryn and Ben Marcus, who own Sheepscot General Farm in Whitefield, Maine, have suffered due to the lack of hemp banking regulation,” Sen. King continued. “Taryn and Ben are hemp farmers who have done everything right. They applied for and received licenses from the State of Maine; they researched the best growing practices; they bought state-approved seeds; they actively marketed their crop; and they grew legal hemp successfully. Due to a lack of federal regulation regarding hemp banking, however, Taryn and Ben have lost access to financial services. Their bank recently closed Sheepscot General Farm’s account and called its $12,000 equipment loan. Additionally, their insurance company canceled the policy that covered the farm, general store, and the Marcus home. Now, left without financing or an ability to insure against loss, Ben and Taryn, who, in Taryn’s words, ‘tiptoed out of the dark woods of prohibition, guided by our elected officials,’ feel as though they have been blindsided and are unjustly at risk of losing the legal livelihood that they worked hard to build. The House-passed SAFE Banking Act would require banking regulators to issue guidance on hemp to financial institutions. With such guidance in hand, banks, credit unions, and insurance companies could offer financial services to small businesspeople like Taryn and Ben in a legally sound way.”

The House-passed SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated hemp or cannabis business, or an associated business (such as a lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
  • Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned hemp or cannabis business or associated business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a hemp or cannabis-related business.

The bill also creates a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned hemp or cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services.

The full letter can be downloaded from Sen. King’s website.


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