The effort to provide the cannabis industry with access to financial institutions and services returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday as the SAFE Banking Act was reintroduced in the House of Representatives.
The bill would protect banks providing services to the state’s legal operators. It’s widely regarded as the most bipartisan cannabis effort in Congress and this year two Republicans and two Democrats are taking the lead. The first round sponsors are Reps Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Warren Davidson (R-OH).
It is expected that many more names will be added to this list. At the last Congress, 206 co-sponsors led to a very imbalanced bipartisan vote of 321-103. An impressive feat for any bill during the politics of this time. Unfortunately for the previous version of the bill, COVID-19 blocked its progress. But the House has never relaxed, including the wording of the bill in two pandemic relief bills.
Co-Chair of the Cannabis Caucus Representative Earl Blumenauer said previously LA Weekly that the SAFE Banking Act was the biggest win for cannabis on Capitol Hill until the MORE Act was passed in December.
“Thousands of employees and businesses across this country have been forced to deal with piles of cash for too long,” said Representative Perlmutter. “It’s time to adopt SAFE Banking to align federal and state laws and reduce public safety risks in our communities. I appreciate the partnership of the cannabis industry and businesses across the country who have added their voice to this effort. The SAFE Banking Act is an important first step in treating cannabis businesses as legal and legitimate businesses and to begin reforming our federal cannabis laws. “
Supporters of the Safe Bank Act have noted for years how dangerous it is for the cannabis industry to remain a purely cash-based business. Even before the events of last summer, when thieves used the cover of protests to ransack clinics across the state, organized criminal gangs were using publicly available licensing information to target operators. The thieves fled with a ton of proceeds and cash, in one case scoring a six-figure tax payment the company was preparing for the state.
Rep. Blumenauer explained how bad things have turned out for Portland’s cannabis companies.
“Resolving the irrational, unfair and dangerous denial of banking services to legal cannabis companies is not just an economic issue, but an urgent public safety issue that will save lives and livelihoods. In the past year, Portland’s cannabis stores have been burgled, robbed or looted more than 100 times, ”said Blumenauer. “During these violent attacks, cannabis workers were threatened at gunpoint, tied up with zippers and repeatedly targeted just for doing their job. Tragically, we have already lost a Portland cannabis worker to this violence. Thousands more people will continue to have a target on their backs if Congress does not address the lack of banking access that poses a real danger to cannabis workers, businesses and our communities. It is a vital part of cannabis reform that cannot wait.
There are a lot of incentives for operators to see the bill go beyond the ability to write a check from a reputable financial institution. It will also facilitate access to traditional forms of loan and capital. This would have a major impact on the mom-and-pop operations that have started so far, as it would open up additional legitimate credit and cash lines to grow their businesses.
The National Cannabis Industry Association has been working on the bill since its inception. Aaron Smith, co-founder and CEO of NCIA, weighed in on the news.
“In an age when small businesses need all the support they can get, and after cannabis companies have specifically provided essential services and generated significant tax revenues for states and the federal government with little to no For financial relief, it is more imperative than ever to pass the SAFE Banking Act, ”said Smith.
Smith not only covered public safety, but simplifying surveillance by attempting to track the billions of dollars in revenue flowing through the cannabis supply chain from state to state.
“Lack of access to banking services continues to create serious unnecessary problems for public safety, transparency and access to traditional loans that small operators desperately need,” Smith said. “These companies contribute billions of dollars to the national economy each year and should be treated like any other industry regulated by law. We are grateful to the sponsors of this legislation who have generated strong and consistent bipartisan support year after year, and we are confident that it again has a clear path to approval. “
The new American Cannabis Council has sent a statement from Acting President Steve Hawkins.
“While the SAFE Banking Act is not the only cannabis legislation that the US Cannabis Council (USCC) expects from this session, it is integral to the success of the responsible cannabis industry for the future,” said Hawkins. “This essential breakthrough will have a positive impact on candidates for social equity who are often prevented from receiving financial support and even having access to traditional banking services. The SAFE Banking Act provides access to financial services such as small business loans, which create equal opportunities, ensuring more diverse representation within the industry. The law also protects public safety, as billions of dollars in annual retail revenue comes mostly from cash transactions, creating targets for crime and putting communities at unnecessary risk.