Two major financial institutions are newly lobbying on cannabis banking: American Express and Citizens Bank.
Both entities lobbied on the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), which would open up access to banking services for the cannabis industry, at the end of 2022, according to lobbying disclosures. This overlapped with the lame duck period during which there was a major push on the Hill to get the Act, which has repeatedly cleared the House, through the Senate before the end of the lame duck period. Ultimately, members of Congress failed to get the SAFE Banking Act across the finish line for the third Congress in a row.
Nonetheless, while the Act has attracted intense lobbying interest for years, more so than any other cannabis-related legislation, the addition of these two entities into the fray is noteworthy.
American Express is the only major credit card company that is lobbying on the Act. Its disclosure lists “HR 1996, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2021, provisions related to cannabis banking.” Efforts to reach American Express to determine its specific position on the Act were not successful.
Only once before has a major credit card company lobbied on cannabis banking, and it was Mastercard Worldwide. Their lobbying on the issue stopped in mid-2020.
And while many banking-related entities have lobbied on cannabis, namely the American Bankers Association, only a handful of banks like Citizens have done so. Wells Fargo lobbies on the issue, and Citigroup did so, too, back in 2019. Citizens Financial Group, also known as Citizens Bank, registered to lobby on “H.R. 1996/S. 910, SAFE Banking Act of 2021.” A spokesperson for Citizens declined to comment.
The new Congress, which is just getting started, is expected to make the SAFE Banking Act a priority again this year. And the lobbying interest is likely to be as diverse as years past.
Insurance-related companies, too, have increasingly lobbied on the SAFE Banking Act, like Travelers Companies Inc. & Subsidiaries, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
So, too, have localities across states like California, Nevada, and Oregon.
“We have business owners coming to City Hall to make deposits, sometimes carrying large sums of cash,” Javier Trujillo, the director of government and public affairs for the City of Henderson, Nevada, told Cannabis Wire in 2019. “It could be in the tens of thousands, if not more sometimes, and they do it twice a year,” at tax time. “It would be nicer to get a check.”