New bipartisan legislation in Congress would increase marijuana businesses’ access to banking services.
Despite the growing number of states that have legalized medical or recreational cannabis, overarching federal prohibition laws make most banks reluctant to work with marijuana businesses. And that means that many cannabis growers and sellers conduct transactions in cash only.
That makes them targets for robberies. Last year, for example, a security guard at an Aurora, Colorado dispensary was killed during a robbery.
But the business of marijuana could become a lot safer under the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act), introduced in the House on Thursday by Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and a bipartisan group of cosponsors.
The legislation would prevent federal authorities from punishing financial services providers just for working with a state-legal marijuana businesses.
“With the majority of states now allowing for some form of recreational or medical marijuana, we have reached a tipping point on this issue and it’s time for Congress to act,” Perlmutter said in a press release. “Allowing tightly regulated marijuana businesses the ability to access the banking system will help reduce the threat of crime, robbery and assault in our communities and keep the cash out of cartels.”
For public safety, it's time for Congress to act to align federal and state banking laws for marijuana businesseshttps://t.co/I3pAX5eRSL
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) April 27, 2017
“This legislation is an important step to ensuring marijuana businesses across the nation – who continue to operate in a very uncertain and insecure environment without access to banks or financial institutions – can be treaty fairly and as legitimate contributors to state and local economies, said Congressman Don Young (R-AK), a cosponsor of the new bill. “While I do not personally advocate for the use of marijuana, I do support these types of issues as a matter of states’ rights and the ability to determine the nature of criminal activity within their own jurisdictions.”
Because many marijuana businesses don’t have access to bank accounts, it means that they also must pay their taxes in cash — but that doesn’t always go smoothly.
Last week, the U.S. Postal Service refused to mail an Alaska marijuana business’s tax payments to the state, citing continuing federal prohibition laws.
Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA) is also an initial cosponsor of the new legislation. A companion bill is expected to be filed in the Senate soon.
The full text of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act) is below: