Biden Department of Justice Releases Memo Outlining Concerns About SAFE Banking Act

Official Release

(Washington, DC) –– Today, the Biden Administration Department of Justice (DOJ) released a memo detailing their concerns about the SAFE Banking Act. Among the DOJ’s chief worries is that SAFE Banking could protect illegal criminal enterprises from being prosecuted for money laundering, a concern long expressed by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

These are the topline issues expressed by the Biden DOJ:

“The SAFE Banking Act… purports to exempt the proceeds of ‘cannabis-related legitimate businesses’ from certain money laundering statutes.”
“The bill would essentially create a possible defense to a money laundering charge—and an extra burden of proof for investigators and prosecutors…”
“…businesses that engage in both state-legal marijuana business activities and other activities or operations, whether legal or illegal, could potentially be immune from prosecution under the Act…”
The bill could “immunize a state-legal marijuana business that is also engaged in fraud…”
Under SAFE “a marijuana-related business could be laundering proceeds from fentanyl sales on the side, or from marijuana sales conducted outside of the state regulatory framework.”
SAFE does not require financial institutions “to collect—or verify—information demonstrating that a particular business is operating in accordance with applicable state law.”
The memo comes as negotiations on a new SAFE Banking Act package continue between Senators Chuck Schumer and Steve Daines.

“Proponents of SAFE Banking have perpetuated the myth that the bill will bolster public safety. But the DOJ’s message is clear: SAFE Banking will only help drug cartels and criminals launder money,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “SAFE Banking is a Wall Street and Big Tobacco giveaway that would hinder law enforcement’s ability to catch and prosecute illegal actors. The opposition to SAFE Banking is bipartisan and shared by many. Last month, SAM joined with organizations like the National Sheriffs’ Association to write a letter expressing concerns over SAFE Banking. We will continue to work with a wide range of partners to ensure that marijuana policy prioritizes public health, not corporate greed.”