bipartisan congressional group is working hard to pass a marijuana banking bill this year, and lobbyists from the cannabis industry are in town for lobby days organized by a significant trade association.
The SAFE Banking Act, which intends to do away with harmful rules and offer safe financial practices for authorized cannabis businesses, has bipartisan support in Congress.
Action In The Senate
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) ramped up its advocacy for the bill this week, as the sponsors of the standalone banking bill reiterated the urgency of enacting reform this session. The public safety imperative of giving the cannabis industry access to the financial system was emphasized by more than 100 stakeholders who participated in two days of lobbying on Capitol Hill, involving more than 100 meetings with lawmakers and staff.
In a recent speech, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) outlined additional proposals that are being considered to build on the financial services reform as part of a larger package known as “SAFE Banking Plus.”
Additionally, he presented violent crime scenarios that targeted marijuana businesses and employees, arguing that they demonstrated the need for more safeguards.
Merkley did not go into specifics about these provisions. However, he did say that they might include funding for Community Development Financial Institutions, expungements for prior cannabis convictions, and anti-discrimination protections for people with records from states that have legalized cannabis.
It’s not just Democrats rallying behind the bill either – Republican Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) is the only member of the GOP leading this legislation, and he believes that safe banking is a public safety issue. “When legal Montana cannabis businesses don’t have a way to safely conduct business and are forced to operate in all cash our communities become vulnerable to crime,” he said in a press release.
Daines, Merkely, and many others believe there is real potential for action to be taken this calendar year. Hopefully, cannabis companies will have access to SAFE Banking soon.
Why SAFE Banking Is Urgently Needed In The Industry
The cannabis industry has been operating in a legal gray area, but now it’s time to move into the light.
The US Government is punishing cannabis businesses because weed is still federally illegal. Even operating in a legal state is difficult because of banking, primarily. The government has not enabled banks to do business with cannabis businesses without great expense, so they’re passing off their burden to the cannabis companies. These businesses can’t get access to loans, credit cards, or even bank accounts, all of which are necessary to operate successfully and legally.
We need to force them into action on this—as many small operators could be given a lifeline with access to bank accounts and other services that would allow them to compete more effectively against larger competitors. The longer they hold off on it, the farther the cannabis industry will be.
The government needs to act now.
It’s time to stop letting small businesses fall behind because of their inability to access essential financial services. While many large corporations can get loans and financing, small businesses are being left behind by the government’s inaction. If they don’t act soon, it will be too late for many of these small operators who could be given a lifeline with access to bank accounts and loans. The longer they hold off on it, the farther behind the industry will be.
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