DENVER — Colorado’s top elected officials and public safety director sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Friday imploring them — yet again — to pass Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act before the congressman leaves office in January.
The SAFE Banking Act has been a measure that Perlmutter, the Democrat who represents Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, has been sponsoring and pushing for Congress to pass for years.
The bill has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives seven times – most recently in February as part of the America COMPETES Act and then in July as an amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
But it still has not passed the Senate. And after President Joe Biden announced last week his administration was taking steps toward rescheduling marijuana at the federal level and pardoning people with federal simple marijuana possession convictions, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and other Colorado elected officials sent the letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress again calling for passage of Perlmutter’s bill to open up the federal banking system to the marijuana industry.
“A lack of access to safe banking not only fuels these crimes by increasing the perception that cannabis businesses carry large amounts of cash on-site, but significantly threatens the public safety of surrounding communities and the entire state,” says the letter from Polis, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, Attorney General Phil Weiser, Treasurer Dave Young and Department of Public Safety Executive Director Stan Hilkey. “We can do something new to address this public safety crisis before another life is taken. We must ensure the SAFE Banking Act is enacted into law.”
The group from Colorado argues that not allowing the industry to have access to federal banking services and electronic processing is making the businesses targets for burglaries — there were 175 at Denver dispensaries in 2020, compared to 122 in 2019 — and other gun violence.
The Senate version of Perlmutter’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, has 42 cosponsors, including nine Republicans. In the House, it has 180 cosponsors, including 26 Republicans. The Colorado group who wrote the letter says that support leads them to believe the time to act on the SAFE Banking bill, even though other marijuana reforms are being discussed, is now.
“We applaud and support larger efforts between the House and the Senate to address legalization and reform nationally. However, we understand such efforts continue to be ongoing and that the pathway toward enactment is uncertain at this time,’ they wrote. “Therefore, given the demonstrated broad support for the SAFE Banking Act, coupled with the undeniably strong public policy demands for the immediate relief this legislation will provide, we strongly urge you to take action now and ensure that licensed cannabis businesses have access to banking and financial services.”
Colorado’s four Democratic U.S. House members are all cosponsors of the bill, as are both of its U.S. senators. The three Republican members of Congress are not cosponsors.
Perlmutter announced in January he would not seek re-election for a ninth term in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District. He endorsed State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, for the seat. She faces Republican Erik Aadland in November.
Perlmutter said earlier this year he would “pursue any and all legislative avenues” in order to get the bill passed.
This is yet another opportunity for the Senate to advance common sense canna is reforms starting with access to the banking system,” he said in July. “I’m calling on them to take action for the safety of our communities and success of Veteran- and minority-owned businesses across the country.”