Too many people, from voters to federally elected officials, don’t understand all of the difficulties facing small cannabis businesses. The media headlines highlighting promising job numbers and record-breaking revenue generation may skew the fact that the profit margins are slim (if any) and that small, craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf are placed at an extreme disadvantage competing with huge, multinational corporations who are better equipped to handle burdensome hurdles like the ridiculous 280e IRS tax code and the lack of normal banking services. Fortunately Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Montana Senator Steve Daines have formed a bipartisan force for good, looking to force a vote on the much needed Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act as Marijuana Moment reported:
“In a letter sent to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Thursday, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) urged a markup of their Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, arguing that it would help address an urgent public safety issue.
“’This is not simply a matter of banking. The inability of these state-legal entities to bank their significant cash reserves is an issue of public safety,’ they wrote, citing cases of robberies and armed burglaries at dispensaries in both of their home states.
“’We owe this to our constituents to hold a markup on this bill and further the legislative process,’ the letter, which was also addressed to the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), continues. ‘To foster success rather than gridlock, we believe this markup on S. 910 is necessary and should focus on policies with robust bipartisan support.’”
The SAFE Banking Act would ensure that banks and other financial institutions could work with state-regulaed cannabis clients without facing any federal penalties. Fear of violating U.S. law, even when the businesses are operating legally under state law, has kept a vast majority of banks and credit unions from working with the industry, forcing too many businesses to be cash-only, making them prime targets of criminals and creating unnecessary complications for all of the ancillary and regular businesses they must interact with, along with various regulators and tax collectors.
A lack of banking services has already caused too many traumatic consequences, including the tragic loss of a Portland-area budtender. It’s past time that Congress pass the SAFE Banking Act as the status quo only creates business inefficiencies and danger. Regardless of anyone’s stance on ending cannabis prohibition, it is imperative that a billion-dollar industry have access to bank accounts. A sincere thanks to Senators Merkley and Daines for reaching across the political divide to fight for their hard working constituents.
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