Due to a comedy of errors by both Republican and Democrat houses, the SAFE Banking Bill did not pass muster in Congress. So, for now, the marijuana industry is left in limbo, waiting for the next stepping stone on the path to legitimacy to appear.
Why Is It Necessary?
In a $33 billion dollar industry, access to basic banking functions might be considered a fundamental necessity. On the safety and security front alone, there is the need for businesses to be able to pay their employees in something other than cash, as well as the need for businesses to be able to accept something other than cash. Dispensary staff are currently at significant risk of being robbed for the money that must surely be kept on-site.
There is also the issue of closed bank accounts due to a perceived contravention of the law. While it may be a legalized industry, medical marijuana could also still get people’s bank accounts closed down if transactions from private or other business banks are linked to it. This makes it very difficult for legitimate, legal medical marijuana businesses to conduct any kind of financial operation in anything but cash.
What Was The Fix?
The SAFE Banking Bill was intended to at least begin the process of addressing some of the disparities which have become painfully evident between all other commercial operations and the marijuana industry. It was supposed to make provision for banks to be able to allow financial transactions to occur between parties, one of whom should be a legitimate and legal medical marijuana business. This provision would enable the marijuana industry to become safer, more reliable, and allow for it to grow as an economic activity.
Having been rejected by the left and right for differing reasons, there is no longer any proposed fix for this glaring inconsistency.
Public Response: Before And After
Medical marijuana business owners were cautiously optimistic that the SAFE Banking Bill would be approved, and thus the ball would start rolling on making basic banking functions accessible to them.
When the SAFE Banking Bill failed, there was a sense of discouragement felt by all who had worked and hoped so hard for this opportunity.
The result has called into question the practicality and functionality of the Senate as a lawmaking body since it evidently cannot do so, even with bipartisan support for a stand-alone bill. There has been some talk about reform.
The Next Stepping Stone
As lobbyists, marijuana advocates, and politicians seem to differ on the whys and hows of the matter, the next step for the SAFE Banking Bill and the medical marijuana industry, in general, is unclear. It may be that the SAFE Bill will re-emerge for inspection once again, having been rephrased or reworked.
It may be a possibility that lobbyists will choose to focus first on the legalization of recreational marijuana instead of trying to find a way through the web of red tape currently set in place by lawmakers.
This move would decriminalize cannabis use completely, which would then, as a knock-on effect, remove the restrictions on banks’ treatment of marijuana businesses and their customers. Then, there would be no need for the SAFE Bill, which was intended to mediate the tension between legal and illegal marijuana sales.
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