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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana senators back bill to give cannabis businesses access to banking

Montana Sen. Jon Tester (L) and Sen. Steve Daines (R)
Montana Sen. Jon Tester (L) and Sen. Steve Daines (R)

Montana’s two U.S. senators are throwing their support behind a bipartisan effort to push new federal marijuana laws through congress before the end of the current term.

Both of Montana’s U.S. senators confirmed to MTPR that they support efforts to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which would ensure that legal cannabis businesses have access to banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.

Most dispensaries in Montana are cash-only, because financial institutions don’t offer services to legal cannabis businesses due to marijuana being federally illegal. But the SAFE banking act would prevent financial regulators from punishing institutions for providing services for cannabis business in states where they are legal.

Reports in national media indicate that Senate leaders are exploring taking the measure, along with policy dealing with the expungement of past marijuana offenses, to significant year-end legislation like the Defense Authorization Act.

A spokesperson for Sen. Steve Daines, who was one of the initial sponsors of the act when it was introduced in 2021 said "the Senator is continuing to work to build consensus so we can pass [the SAFE banking act] into law this year.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Jon Tester says he also supports passage of SAFE Banking Act before the term runs out and is attempting to add a provision that would push the Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct clinical trials on using medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for PTSD and chronic pain.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at john.hooks@umt.edu