The tension between federal and state marijuana laws has caused most Arkansas banks to stay away from providing services to the “green” industry. However, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act (SAFER) Banking Act (SB 2860) has become a burning topic on Capitol Hill. The Act aims to ease the access of legal-marijuana businesses to deposit accounts, insurance, and other financial services. Last month, the Act passed the Senate Banking Committee by a notable bipartisan majority of 14-9. A Senate floor vote is expected in the relatively near future with proponents of the Act being cautiously optimistic in reaching another successful milestone.
Although marijuana will remain federally illegal under the Act, banks would enjoy a “safe harbor” from certain criminal, civil, and administrative penalties when providing services to legal-marijuana businesses. As with other highly regulated industries, certain guidelines and restrictions will remain in place to encourage due diligence and combat suspicious activity. While there is a ways to go before coming law, this Act is the subject of high attention from both the banking and cannabis industries—strangers that may turn into acquaintances sooner rather than later.