Banking access in America’s state-legal marijuana industry has been a controversial topic since its inception. Federal law prohibited cannabis even as dozens of states legalized the plant for medical and recreational use, resulting in a state-level industry that dealt in a federally outlawed product.
Consequently, businesses in the cannabis sector were unable to access banking and financial services as financial institutions generally avoided state-legal cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers for fear of federal reprisal.
Efforts by a group of lawmakers to mitigate this issue and finally grant the cannabis industry access to banking have generally moved at a slow pace, forcing cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis in the meantime and increasing their risk of suffering violent robberies.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act sought to expand banking access to America’s cannabis industry. However, the measure stalled in the U.S. Senate several times despite the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Most recently, lawmakers filed a revised version of the bill called the SAFER Banking Act and sent it to the Senate Banking Committee for review. Soon after, Schumer released a statement hailing the measure as a means of making small businesses and their communities safer by allowing the cannabis industry to finally access conventional financial services like small business loans and bank accounts.
The safety aspect likely referred to the fact that cannabis businesses are often targeted by criminals because they often have stockpiles of cash and cannabis, which are highly liquid assets, on-site. However, while Schumer and the other lawmakers behind the SAFER Banking Act are optimistic about its chances of advancing, several industry insiders aren’t confident of the measure’s chances of success.
Some advocates had been concerned that the SAFER Banking Act would be held up by a possible government shutdown that would halt legislative activities in Congress. Until this weekend, the U.S. government had been only days away from its fourth partial shutdown in the decade as Republicans and Democrats still hadn’t passed funding legislation for federal agencies.
Over the weekend, however, Congress passed a last-minute bill, keeping the government open. Now attention turns to the bill. Last week, Senate Banking Committee chair Senator Sherrod Brown predicted that a majority of the committee would vote in favor of the SAFER Banking Act. This has come to pass, as the bill has now been advanced to the Senate floor.
Brown noted in the Ask a Pol podcast that while he didn’t expect many amendments to the measure on the Senate floor or what the vote committee vote would be, he was confided that the bill would pass “decisively.”
Marijuana industry advocates, as well as enterprises such as Verano Holdings Corp. (CSE: VRNO) (OTCQX: VRNOF), hope that this particular piece of legislation will fare better than its predecessor did.
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