Congress is being asked to support a measure that would give banks permission to do business with the cannabis industry. Although it may seem like a no-brainer for financial institutions to have the freedom to work with these kinds of companies, some of which generate millions of dollars in transactions every month, federal law has made it an extremely complex risk. So too have cannabis businesses been forced to operate mostly in cash, a situation that has presented a plethora of challenges in paying employees, taxes and just making regular supply purchases the same as any other business.
A bill with 106 Cosponsors is now being discussed (Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 or the SAFE Banking Act), which would allow banks to service the cannabis industry — open accounts, provide loans, etc. — without running the risk of prosecution for money laundering.
“The SAFE Banking Act is an answer to the very real problem facing these businesses as they are forced to operate exclusively with cash. It makes them prime targets for violent robberies and money laundering schemes,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-O) said in a press release. “This isn’t about condoning marijuana businesses, it’s about creating an auditable trail and keeping our neighborhoods safe.”
“Government Regulators have deemed cannabis business owners to have certain reputational risks. From a civil liberties standpoint, I believe this is something we need to move away from,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) added. “There are reputational risks associated with any small business, and barring legally recognized small businesses from our financial institutions threatens the very pillars of liberty and freedom our country was founded on.”
Passing marijuana banking reform could be the first in a series of more modest cannabis legislation that Congress will take up this session, with the ultimate goal of ending federal marijuana prohibition.