Financial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more
© Greg Nash

The U.S. House of Representatives took an historic vote on legislation to make it easier and safer for cannabis businesses – and the businesses that serve them – to engage in the mainstream financial services sector.

Just a few years ago, if someone said this legislation would get a hearing in Congress much less a vote in the House of Representatives, I might have given you a funny look.  But the story of how this bill advanced through the House represents some of the best practices of financial services lawmaking.

Reps. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterGreen neighborhoods for better jobs, a cleaner environment, and a sustainable future Congress needs to finalize space weather bill as solar storms pose heightened threat OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money MORE (D-Colo.), Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.), Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power Business groups back pandemic insurance bill modeled on post-9/11 law National Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus MORE (R-Ohio) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (R-Ohio) proved to be tenacious sponsors who were open to making the changes necessary to drive a large, bipartisan vote. Their efforts were supported by a unified financial services sectors led by credit unions, banks and their associations working together to help Congress and their industries understand that the cannabis banking legislation wasn’t about making cannabis legal, but rather about making sure that legal cannabis business can bank safely.


Credit unions and banks working together on Capitol Hill might sound novel, and it certainly makes lawmakers take notice, but it’s not new.  We’ve worked together to enact regulatory relief legislation; we stood side by side at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; we’ve even been on the same side of data breach litigation. And when we’ve worked together, we’ve almost always achieved a positive outcome for the institutions we represent and the consumers and small businesses they serve.

When people ask me about credit union versus bank battles in advocacy, I am always quick to share with them that we agree on about 90 percent of the issues. It’s the 10 percent that seem to get all the attention and none of the progress. These are the issues that are quixotic at best, but often feel like we fight the fight because we’ve always fought the fight.

The success we achieved on the SAFE Banking Act reminds us what is possible when credit unions and banks work together. We’ve proven our ability to bring together diametrically opposed lawmakers to achieve the seemingly impossible, so perhaps we can tackle something equally insurmountable and not just the “run of the mill” trade issues.

Neither banks nor credit unions are strangers to the reputational and financial costs associated hacked accounts and identity fraud. Can our combined efforts pave the way for a long-past-due national data security and privacy package?

Whatever we do next, let’s keep this going. They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Well this collaboration has been a tremendous step, and I can’t wait to see what kind of journey credit unions and banks can take when we work in accord.

Ryan Donovan is Credit Union National Association (CUNA) chief advocacy officer.