Montana Senator Steve Daines has introduced the SAFE Banking Act to help businesses that legally sell marijuana to be able to bank locally like any other business, rather than have to operate on a cash basis only.

On Monday, KGVO News reached out to Cary Hegreberg, President and CEO of the Montana Bankers Association for his perspective on the SAFE Banking Act.

“We are very appreciative of Senator Daines effort to essentially lead the Republican effort in the U.S. Senate to pass the SAFE Banking Act,” said Hegreberg. “As you mentioned, it is illegal to bank marijuana businesses under federal law. Marijuana is still a Schedule One drug at the federal level despite what any state legislatures or initiatives have done, which makes it illegal to bank a marijuana business.”

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Hegreberg expanded on that concept.

“It's considered money laundering under federal law, and so we are anxious to help customers who are engaged in legal businesses to do so in a safe manner,” he said.  “Imagine trying to run a business with all cash. It poses a lot of safety risks and accounting risks and frankly, probably even some tax issues that would be made a lot easier if the SAFE Banking Act were to pass.”

Hegreberg said passage of the bill would help smooth the way for small legal marijuana providers to safely do their everyday banking.

“We're anxious to see it pass,” he said. “We know that some banks, regardless of whether the SAFE Banking Act passes or not, will not handle marijuana related businesses as long as it's considered a schedule one drug, however, other banks and financial institutions would be much more prone to do business with customers they know and they have worked with.”

Hegreberg had guidance for any small legal marijuana dispensary or recreational marijuana provider on how to begin the safe banking process.

“Well, first and foremost, call your U.S. Senators Daines and Tester and urge them to work together in passing the SAFE Banking Act because that will go a long way toward them being able to conduct business in a normal fashion,” he said. “Secondly, go down and ask to meet personally with your community banker and find out what options there may be and if there are possible avenues to pursue.”

KGVO News also reached out to the President of the Montana Credit Union Association. That story can be found here. KGVO is awaiting a call back from the Montana Commissioner of Banking for comments as well.

The SAFE Banking Act passed the U.S. House in 2021, but awaits action in the U.S. Senate.

Read the SAFE Banking Act here.

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