Marijuana Industry Fights For Banking Rights After Robberies

Apr 07, 2020

In Denver, Colorado, marijuana dispensaries experienced 8 armed robberies within a two month period. Although the suspects have not been caught, the main issue is that these occurrences could be largely reduced or even eliminated if these businesses were not forced to deal exclusively with cash.

The National Cannabis Industry Association’s Bethany Moore states the root of the problem, “In almost every dispensary, you see an ATM machine because they don’t accept debit or credit cards for purchase. They are subject to carrying lots of cash, which creates a public safety issue.”

So far, there has been some progress in the nation’s perception of cannabis. Recreational cannabis is now legal in eleven states, including the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana has been legalized in 30 states. However, it is still considered illegal at the federal level. It is because of this that the aforementioned states will be denied having access to traditional banking methods. This also affects the state as it would be unable to collect their portion of tax revenue

Enter The SAFE Banking Act

The SAFE Banking Act was introduced as an answer to the many difficulties experienced by legal cannabis companies doing business in the United States. It was created to stop federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for providing their services to cannabis companies. It has a total of 206 co-sponsors.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), one of the sponsors, said, “Forcing legal businesses to operate in all-cash is dangerous for our communities. Operating in cash is an invitation to robbery, money laundering and organized crime. This is a public safety issue, and I hope that this will be the Congress when we build a bipartisan consensus to put this common-sense fix into law.”

The passing of this legislation would allow marijuana businesses to have access to banking, and even more important, make these dispensaries safer than they currently are. 

The good news is that back in the Spring of 2019, both bank lobbyists and financial institutions were eager to push for the approval for the bill. Representing the $17 trillion U.S. banking industry, The American Bankers Association testified before Congress, in full support of the bill. Leading banks such as Wells Fargo, Key Bank, HSBC North America, Paypal, Prudential and Nationwide were also on board with the passage of this bill. 

In September 2019, the House gave its approval by a vote of 321-103. Although the SAFE Banking Act has passed in the U.S. House, it is not known if it will have sufficient support so that it can pass through the Senate.

The National Cannabis Industry Association is working feverishly to ensure that Congress takes note of the SAFE Banking Act. They are collaborating with both the financial industry and stakeholders to inform the Senate about the necessity of this legislation.

Looking Ahead

Ironically the institutions who made cannabis illegal for over 80 years is now overseeing its legalization. But many in the cannabis community should remain hopeful that many strategic efforts are being made to push the SAFE Banking Act forward. As the marijuana industry fights for change, the ultimate goal is for more communities to be safe.

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