It is honestly hard to understate how important it is that Congress pass the SAFE Banking Act to finally allow cannabis businesses access to regular banking and financial services. While there are some banks that do business with state-regulated cannabis companies, that simply isn’t good enough. These banks charge significant fees for this privilege and the businesses must still remain cash-only as no credit or debit cards can be utilized at dispensaries. The bureaucratic headaches aren’t just limited to the cannabis industry either as everyone the industry does business with, from their landlords to the state and federal agencies collecting record-breaking tax revenue, are then forced to accept cash as well. While the lack of financial services is a huge impediment to doing business, especially for locally-owned craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf, the biggest issue is the current threat to public safety. The more than 100 robberies in the Portland-area over the past year alone are troubling, but thieves are taking advantage all across the nation. Tragically, one Portland budtender was murdered in an armed robbery and more needless suffering will occur if the cannabis industry is forced to be cash-only. Thankfully, as Marijuana Moment reported, the SAFE Banking Act has been reintroduced in the United States House by Representative Ed Perlmutter with bipartisan support:
The bill as introduced has 102 initial cosponsors, with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Warren Davidson (R-OH) taking the lead alongside Perlmutter. By the end of the 116th Congress, the prior version of the bill garnered 206 cosponsors. The current bill includes support from 13 Republicans.
A new companion Senate version of the bill is expected to be filed next week.
The SAFE Banking Act would ensure that financial institutions could take on cannabis business clients without facing federal penalties. Fear of sanctions has kept many banks and credit unions from working with the industry, forcing marijuana firms to operate on a cash basis that makes them targets of crime and creates complications for financial regulators.
The bill has been slightly revised this session to expand banking protections to explicitly include hemp and CBD businesses, and some technical changes were made to clarify language around insurance and safe harbor provisions. A separate bill to address insurance issues in the cannabis market was also introduced in the Senate on Thursday.
With a supermajority of voters understanding that it’s time to end cannabis prohibition altogether, passing the SAFE Banking Act should be a no-brainer. I certainly expect the bill to pass the House, but the real question will be if the common-sense banking legislation will survive the 50-50 Senate and its rather archaic filibuster rules. It’s imperative to spread the word and help everyone understand how important this policy change is. This goes beyond cannabis. Even if you don’t support legalization, you should support this bill. This is a public safety issue. If you don’t support the SAFE Banking Act, then you don’t support public safety. Step by step, let’s save and improve lives and the SAFE Banking Act is one crucial step towards ending the failed, racist, and harmful war on cannabis. Let’s get to work. Contact your elected officials and get them on board.