The state-legal cannabis industry in America has come a long way despite being just a decade or so old. It has employed hundreds of thousands of individuals, generated billions of dollars in revenue, and filled state coffers with millions of dollars in tax revenue. Cannabis is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, however, and this classification has consistently been a thorn in the sector’s side.
Fearing reprisals from the federal government, banking institutions refuse to work with state-legal cannabis businesses, forcing them to operate on a cash-only basis, among other things. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (“SAFE”) Banking Act, a legislation that seeks to protect banks which that transact with businesses in the cannabis space, hasn’t had as much luck in the Senate. As such, bill sponsors Senators Jeff Merkley and Steve Daines have sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown urging him to put the legislation to a vote.
This is not just an issue of granting businesses in the cannabis space access to banking services, they say, but also a public safety issue. Since these establishments are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, they often have large sums of money on premises, puts employees at risk of robberies and armed burglaries. In fact, the two cited cases of theft at cannabis dispensaries in their home states.
Thus, they say, they owe it to their constituents to put the SAFE Banking Act to a vote and “further the legislative process.” The banking legislation was reintroduced to the senate three months ago, and since then, it has not been subject to a hearing. However, lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed the bill for the fourth time this April. The public letter, which was also addressed to Senator Pat Toomey, a ranking member in the Senate Banking Committee, may be an indication that private requests to Senator Brown to hold a markup on the bill may have gone unheard.
While Brown had previously stated that he would like to tie cannabis sentencing reform together with the banking bill, recent comments show that he isn’t married to the idea. He has also said that he had discussions with Senate leadership about merging it with a broader cannabis legalization reform that is currently being drafted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. However, Schumer has stated that he doesn’t want to pass a banking bill, which he says puts industry interests first without advancing a bill addressing social equity.
Some form of cannabis policy reform at the federal level would be a great help to the entire industry, including Red White & Bloom Brands Inc. (CSE: RWB) (OTCQX: RWBYF), as some of the regulatory conflicts between state law and federal law would be clarified.
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