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Safe Harbor for Financial Institutions Serving Legal Cannabis Businesses

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As Delaware readies for the upcoming launch of the state’s legal adult-use cannabis industry, state lawmakers approved legislation, proposed by State Treasurer Colleen Davis, providing protections for banks and other financial institutions that serve licensed marijuana businesses.

Although marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, Delaware has joined many other states in legalizing it for medical or recreational use. Treasurer Davis believes that legislation protecting banks serving legal marijuana businesses can help bridge the gap between state legalization and federal banking laws.

House Bill 355, sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski and Sen. Trey Paradee, clarifies that providing financial services to legal cannabis businesses is lawful under Delaware state law. Passage of the bill removes a major barrier for the cannabis industry, which has struggled to access traditional banking services due to the continued federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

“This legislation is a critical step forward for Delaware’s cannabis industry,” said State Treasurer Colleen Davis. “By ensuring safe access to banking services, we are empowering legitimate businesses to operate transparently and securely.”

The passage of H.B. 355 marks a pivotal moment for Delaware’s legal marijuana industry and the financial institutions that will support it. By providing clear legal protections and a solid regulatory framework, if signed the new law will protect the safety, security, and long-term viability of this sector of our economy.

“Across the country, we’ve witnessed dispensaries and banks alike struggling with legal uncertainty surrounding financial and accounting services for cannabis businesses. This uncertainty not only undermines the operations of state-compliant dispensaries but also hinders their access to basic business functions such as access to banking, acquiring loans, or paying taxes,” said Rep. Ed Osienski. “We want Delaware’s safe and regulated industry to out-compete the illegal market. By providing dispensaries with a secure avenue to banking and compliance services, we empower them to contribute positively to our economy, keep costs down for the industry and customers, employ local talent, and fulfill their tax obligations.”

“At the end of the day, cannabis retailers in Delaware are small businesses. They will be in our communities. They will hire Delawareans. They will pay their taxes. They will contribute to the economic development of this State,” said Sen. Trey Paradee. “But with an over-reliance on cash-transactions, retailors are at a disadvantage in terms of their banking, compliance, and safety needs. With the passage of this legislation, the State can ensure that these types of businesses have a clear path towards access to those critical services.”

“This legislation creates a safer environment for legally operating businesses within the state’s marijuana industry,” said Rob Coupe, Commissioner, Delaware Office of the Marijuana Commissioner. “The legislation not only provides legal protections for financial institutions and service providers working with licensed marijuana businesses, but also strengthens regulatory oversight and facilitates compliance with tax regulations.”

The bill aims to increase the willingness of banks and other financial institutions to serve legal cannabis businesses by providing legal clarity and certainty, promoting compliance and transparency in the cannabis industry, and reducing the risk of enforcement against banks involved in the industry. It will also reduce reliance on cash transactions among marijuana businesses and decrease the risk of robbery and theft. These safeguards will benefit businesses providing financial related services and the retailers, and should incentivize customers to patronize legal, licensed retailers instead of black-market sellers.

The bill now awaits Governor Carney’s approval.


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