For those who run businesses in the marijuana industry, it’s been a cash-only enterprise. That’s because due to federal law, cannabis businesses have been denied financial services from banks that are afraid of running afoul of federal law.
That’s despite the fact that cannabis businesses employing thousands of people, pump money into the economy and pay millions into state tax coffers where marijuana is legal.
However, the situation with banks may change toon. It will depend on the U.S. Senate. They are expected to take up a marijuana banking bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives that would grant banks “safe harbor” in offering services to businesses that deal with marijuana.
That’s a huge change from how things stand now.
What the Marijuana Banking Bill Says
Currently, marijuana is illegal under federal law. It is a Schedule I illegal drug. In the eyes of the federal government, it is considered just as dangerous as cocaine or heroin.
That fact that has led banks to stay away from doing business with anyone in the cannabis industry. Technically, they would be breaking federal law, which could open them to severe penalties. This is the case even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational and medical use.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act – known as the SAFE Banking Act – would change that. The act passed the House by a vote of 321 to 103, with 91 Republicans voting for it. The only Democrat who voted against it was Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell.
Chances Of Senate Passage
Part of the reason that Republicans supported the marijuana banking bill is the huge growth in the marijuana industry. For example, a report from Leafly found that 64,389 jobs were added by the cannabis industry in 2018 alone.
As noted by Politico, many of the “long-running stigmas” surrounding cannabis have faded as the industry has become more entrenched in communities around the country.
“The genie is out of the bottle,” Rep. Steve Stivers, a Republican from Ohio who helped with efforts to get GOP support for the bill, told Politico.
How that plays out in the Senate remains to be seen. But certainly, it would appear the bill has a better chance of passing than many would have expected even at the beginning of this year.
Why This Is Important
Passage of the marijuana banking bill will mean a great deal to those in the marijuana industry. Not having access to financial services has made dealing with everyday business cumbersome. It also has meant a bigger investment in security when businesses are dealing with cash.
It also will give them access to more financing for expansion and business growth, something that is needed as the market for cannabis products continues to expand.
That’s good news for consumers, too, leading to a more robust cannabis industry that can offer them a wider variety of quality products.