One of the most pressing issues faced by the legal Cannabis industry today is the inability of most banks to work with dispensaries because of Cannabis’ status as a Schedule 1 substance. While limited banking access may cause a dangerous climate for dispensaries due to security risks, the major issue is loss of typical banking services. Today’s actions by the Finance Committee have made headway in passing a bill intended to ease the stresses of banking in the current market.
The SAFE Banking Act, which was voted on by the House Financial Services Committee, where it was approved by a resounding 45-15 vote, with 11 republicans backing the resolution. The bill would provide banks with immunity from banking regulators for working with organizations involved in the Cannabis Industry, despite Cannabis still being federally illegal. The bill is expected to go before the house for a full vote soon, and with 152 co-sponsors of the bill, the Cannabis industry should feel nothing but optimism moving forward.
Not only will banks working with Cannabis organizations be protected under the new initiative, several amendments to the bill were passed during the hearing that will also benefit the Cannabis industry. Arguably the most-important to supporters of the initiative is the requirement of the federal government to study racial inclusion and diversity in the industry. It is the hope of the legislation’s supporters that these new studies will help discredit some of the racially-biased actions of the War on Drugs that left a sour taste in the mouths of many Americans.
These reports would scrutinize the ability for legitimate Cannabis business owners who are female or of a racial minority to access financial institutions, and to provide recommendations to these populations on how to better access these financial institutions. Other mandatory federal studies would include investigating possible barriers to market entry experienced by women and People of Color within the industry, and how to circumvent them.
Other notable voice-vote additions to the bill included the protections of insurance companies who work with folks in the Cannabis industry, as well as “de novo” banks, which are smaller banks that often seek master accounts or charters within the banking industry.
In summation, this is a historic day in the fight for a legal, safe, well-rounded Cannabis market in the United States. While it is not the first independent Cannabis-focused bill to reach the House floor, none had the longevity and the backing that the SAFE Banking bill has had. The Democratic party is whole-heartedly for the federal legalization of Cannabis, and today we saw that members of the House GOP are starting to see the merits of progressive Cannabis legalization as well. This is a shining example of the bipartisan politics Washington so badly needs, and while the fight is still far from over, we should all take a breath and give ourselves a pat on the back.
Anyone who wants to proactively support this bill and get it to the House for a full vote should contact the NCIA (National Cannabis Industry Association) and attend their Cannabis Industries Lobbying Days event from May 21st-23rd in Washington D.C., or go visit their website to learn about other ways you can support the Cannabis industry.