Over 700 banks and credit unions have filed paperwork with the US government acknowledging their relationships with licensed cannabis businesses, according to quarterly data provided by the US Treasury Department.
The total is an uptick from the first quarter of 2021, but it remains shy of the totals reported in the first quarter of 2020. In all, the agency identified 553 banks (about 11 percent of all US banks) and 202 credit unions (about 4 percent of all US credit unions) that are “actively providing banking services to marijuana-related businesses.”
Federal law discourages banks and other financial institutions from maintaining relationships with marijuana businesses because the plant remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. On six occasions, members of the US House of Representatives have passed legislation, The SAFE Banking Act, to explicitly permit banks and other institutions to engage in relationships with marijuana businesses without running afoul of federal law. House members most recently did so last month, attaching the measure as an amendment to The America COMPETES Act of 2022. The Act is currently awaiting action by the US Senate.
According to survey data compiled earlier this year by Whitney Economics, over 70 percent of participating cannabis businesses said that the “lack of access to banking or investment capital” is their top challenge. By comparison, only 42 percent of respondents cited “state regulations” as the most significant burden facing the industry, and only 39 percent cited the “influence of the illicit market.”
Additional information on The SAFE Banking Act is available from NORML.