The congressional marijuana banking reforms are in limbo. A report highlights one key issue that supporters argue makes legislation paramount: the fact that cash intensive marijuana dispensaries are seriously exposed to crime. While some think those entities are prone to burglary because thieves come for the product, other report that cash is the primary lure.
Marijuana markets are the target of burglaries, including some that turned violent and even fatal in 2021. In less than five months, almost 100 shops in Washington state were robbed, leading to increased calls from lawmakers to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) banking act, which would allow cannabis traders access to traditional monetary institutions. The act was passed in the House, but it got stuck in the Senate. Lawmakers were discouraged to discover that SAFE was not included in the National Defense Bill.
According to some research, cash is the target in 50% of cannabis robberies, even though the product also plays a strong role. In other robberies, both money and the product are taken. There is urgency to pass the SAFE bill because this would provide relief to cannabis entrepreneurs. But there is a flaw, a report intimated: as focus to normalize depository transactions for such businesses without a proper language to address the credit card processing, cannabis firms will use cash in almost all their transactions. More needs to be done after the bill passes Congress for the robbery issue to be addressed, including allowing purchase transaction, or a means through which cash enters the system. Currently SAFE language only recognizes depository banking. Other issues include worker training and security outside of the premises.
The report recommended passing an incremental reform legislation for marijuana or the SAFE bill. Federal and state regulators need to review policies aimed at facilitating a larger adoption of epayment for marijuana stores.
States should provide funding for security to SMEs and improve employee training to emphasize deescalating tension and cooperating with robbers to avoid fatalities. The bill’s House sponsor said he was looking for an alternative reform vehicle.
Omitting the banking bill in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been a disappointment to advocates, potentially leading to a tiff over enacting it through a different channel. Details are emerging about a SAFE Plus package that Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is working on with bipartisan and bicameral offices. The package would be introduced and spearheaded as standalone and center on the SAFE Bill Act.
Lawmakers are also discussing including the SAFE Plus phrasing to protect users’ second amendment rights. Legalized states need to exempt users from federal limitations that bar any cannabis user from owning a gun; SAFE Plus seeks to enjoin the Gun Rights & Marijuana Act (GRAM).
Schumer, in October, said Congress was close to tabling as well as passing the cannabis banking and expungements bill, denoting progress during discussions with Republican senators. Senator Cory Booker said with the election over, Democrats who wish to enact marijuana reform must act now. Booker initially opposed taking the banking reforms before Congress but softened and became quite liberal to moving incremental legislation.
Some advocates would like to see the bill tweaked to fund minority deposit-taking institutions (MDIs) as well as community-based development financial institutions (CDFIs), which support companies being owned by minorities. They also ask for changes demanding banks work with marijuana industry to lend indiscriminately.
The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), a bankers’ association, wrote to the Senate asking members to call a vote on SAFE banking soon. Soon is what the entire marijuana industry, together with related companies such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX), would like to see regarding the passing of cannabis banking regulations.
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