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May 9, 2019

Media contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

BISMARCK, ND - Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem co-sponsored a bipartisan effort involving 38 states and territorial Attorneys General, urging Congress to pass the federal Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595) and give legal marijuana-related businesses access to the federal banking system.

“North Dakota legalized medical marijuana and the first licensed facility opened earlier this year. Unfortunately, because of federal restrictions, these now lawful businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis. By allowing these lawful business operations to use the federal banking system, Congress could alleviate public safety concerns and also ensure proper accountability of the business transactions,” said Stenehjem.

Current federal law prohibits financial institutions from providing services to marijuana businesses, even in states where medical or retail marijuana sales are legal. Forcing these businesses to operate as cash-only operations poses serious safety threats, creating targets for violent and white-collar crime. The SAFE Banking Act permits marijuana-related businesses in states and territories with existing regulatory structures to access the federal banking system.

In the letter, the Attorneys General stress that they are not endorsing legalization of marijuana-related transactions, stating “regardless of how individual policymakers feel about states permitting the use of medical or recreational marijuana, the reality of the situation requires federal rules that permit a sensible banking regime for legal businesses.”

The North Dakota Bankers Association, the trade association representing the state’s banking industry, endorses the SAFE Banking Act. “Although we are not taking a position on the legalization of marijuana, we support legislation to bring these business transactions out from under the table and into the highly regulated banking system, and we appreciate Attorney General Stenehjem’s leadership on this issue,” said NDBA President Rick Clayburgh.

The SAFE Banking Act also has widespread, bipartisan support with 172 cosponsors in the US House. The House Financial Services Committee approved the bill in March and now it awaits a vote by the full House.

The coalition of states and territories includes Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, the Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, the US Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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