It was two steps forward, one step back for the cannabis community when Senators Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Ron Wyden introduced their legalization proposal, but Sen. Booker initially seemed to oppose the SAFE Banking Act and other more incremental reforms. While ending federal prohibition is certainly the ultimate goal, many of us remain adamant that incremental changes should not be set aside completely, following the old adage of “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
While we certainly need to remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and, at the very least, regulate cannabis similarly to tobacco and alcohol, two much more deadlier substances, cannabis businesses need access to regular banking services yesterday. Lacking access to bank accounts and other financial services particularly hurt small retailers like Kind Leaf who want nothing more than to provide quality cannabis at the most affordable prices possible. The extra fees and labor needed to comply with current federal banking laws unnecessarily increase prices for adult consumers and patients battling debilitating medical conditions alike. Thankfully, Senator Booker has just explained his position, announcing his support for the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, as Yahoo Finance reported:
“Booker clarified his stance a bit to affirm his support for the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, conceding it could be a sweetener to get moderates on board with more progressive reforms.
“’Don’t get me wrong, I support the SAFE Banking Act. I think it’s a phenomenal bill,” he said. ‘For me, a good bipartisan bill like the banking bill is a necessary sweetener to get people to move along on the equitable justice elements that are really critical.’
“Proponents of the SAFE Banking Act note that it has successfully passed the House four times with bipartisan support, but never made it to the Senate for a vote when the chamber was under Republican control. While the bill lacks an outright focus on restorative justice, advocates note that the bill does address issues around access to banking that impacts minority entrepreneurs and corporations alike. The bill’s co-sponsor in the House, Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D., Colo.), has also repeatedly warned that cannabis workers having to handle large amounts of cash remains a public safety issue.”
In addition to the extra costs that dispensaries incur, a lack of normal banking services increase the risk to employees and the local community. Anyone stating that they are concerned about public health at all should support the SAFE Banking Act as lives are literally at stake. Portland, Oregon, has already suffered the tragic loss of a budtender, we don’t need to lose any more good people for no reason other than the remnants of policies infected by Reefer Madness. Step by step, Congress needs to pass policies that end federal prohibition. Let’s start with the SAFE Banking Act as a common sense first step towards a sane and rational cannabis policy.
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