One of the biggest issues for the legal marijuana sector in the USA is undoubtedly everything that comes with being a Schedule 1 substance. As such, it is impossible for cannabis companies to obtain banking access for their operations, because banks are not in a position to provide them with accounts due to the criminalized nature of cannabis.
Last month we reported about the growing support for access to banks for the nascent cannabis industry in the USA, when Congressman Ed Perlmutter provided testimony to the House’s Financial Services Committee about the possible reintroduction of the STATES act (PDF).
Eventually the SAFE Banking Act was introduced by Perlmutter of Colorado, and cosponsored by 152 signatories.
The main aim of the act is to create a safe harbor for banks to provide services to the cannabis industry, which has grown beyond $3bn already, without needing to fear that federal regulators — and the DoJ — may come after them.
The good news is that yesterday, the House Financial Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act (HR1595) with a 45-15 vote.
The act is the first act ever — aiming to provide the cannabis industry with banking access — to pass a congressional committee.
The bill was, as expected, applauded by ever valiant cannabis advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
“This is the most significant step we’ve seen so far toward addressing our outdated federal marijuana policies.”
“We’ve actually gone through the process, fully debated, and seen broad bipartisan support. I applaud the outstanding work of Chairwoman Waters and Representatives Heck and Perlmutter for making this possible. The SAFE Banking Act solves a major problem for the state legal cannabis industry and its success moving through the committee is a signal of how we can move forward with other critical proposals.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon
Pro-cannabis organizations also immediately expressed their appreciation and support for the passing of the act, which could now lead to a possible vote on House floor in foreseeable time.
If the SAFE Act passes congress, cannabis companies will be able to operate in a much safer environment than now, thanks to easier access to credit card machines, payroll solutions, and generally standards known from... the 50s last century.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which is based in Washington, was quick to highlight the increased benefits the act would bring if it passes the Hill.
“This is a historic and critical step forward for the nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Lawmakers seem to recognize the urgency and public safety implications of ensuring cannabis businesses can access banking services.”
“Regardless of where members stand on legalization, they can agree that it is in the public interest to make banking available to cannabis businesses in states where it is legal. We hope the full House will follow the committee’s recommendation and advance this important legislation.”
— Stephen Hawkins, Executive Director Marijuana Policy Project, in press release
While the act still has a far way to go, and passing congress can bring up additional hurdles, receiving approval of the House Finance Committee is a major step already for the bipartisan effort.
The thought that the fastest growing job sector in the USA would have to continue relying on middlemen, without legal access to banking services, is ludicrous in 2019. And one of many steps legislators need to fix in order to see the sector grow even more.
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