U.S. Capitol building The U.S. Capitol building. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The heads of state banking agencies are urging Congress to enact marijuana banking legislation, contending that financial institutions, including credit unions,  take huge regulatory risks when they conduct business with cannabis-related companies.

“It is incumbent on Congress to resolve the conflict between state cannabis programs and federal statutes that effectively create unnecessary risks for banks seeking to operate in this space,” the regulators, representing 24 states and Washington, D.C., said in a letter this week to House and Senate leaders.

They said that the “looming threat” of civil actions, forfeiture of assets, reputational risk and criminal penalties are not conducive to a regulated market.

Many financial institutions, including credit unions, have refused to do business with cannabis-related businesses.

For instance, “Marijuana Business Daily” recently reported that SunTrust Bank had informed the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida that it was closing its bank accounts.

The banking supervisors urged Congress to pass legislation that gives financial institutions a safe harbor to serve such businesses or gives states the full power over marijuana-related businesses.

The House Financial Services Committee has approved legislation that would provide a safe harbor for financial institutions in states where marijuana is legal.

In the past, Senate Republican leaders have refused to consider such legislation.