U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, is teaming up with representatives from Alaska and Washington this week for another push at getting marijuana-related businesses access to the federal banking system.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act would allow banking organizations to serve pot shops, cultivation centers and other marijuana-related businesses in states regulating the drug. The move is part of the recently formed Cannabis Caucus’ efforts to increase protections for the legal marijuana industry.
Co-founder of the caucus, Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, is sponsoring the so-called SAFE Banking Act along with Reps. Perlmutter and Denny Heck, a Washington Democrat.
“This legislation is an important step to ensuring marijuana businesses across the nation — who continue to operate in a very uncertain and insecure environment without access to banks or financial institutions — can be treaty fairly and as legitimate contributors to state and local economies,” Young said in a statement. “While I do not personally advocate for the use of marijuana, I do support these types of issues as a matter of states’ rights and the ability to determine the nature of criminal activity within their own jurisdictions.”
Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, the banking industry has by and large not provided credit cards, checks or other services to marijuana businesses to avoid criminal and civil liability. That’s forced the marijuana industry in Colorado to operate on a cash-only basis, which can be dangerous, proponents of the so-call SAFE Banking Act argue.
“Allowing tightly regulated marijuana businesses the ability to access the banking system will help reduce the threat of crime, robbery and assault in our communities and keep the cash out of cartels,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “With the majority of states now allowing for some form of recreational or medical marijuana, we have reached a tipping point on this issue and it’s time for Congress to act.”
This is not the first attempt at addressing the banking issue for pot shops. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act previously went nowhere after being introduced in the Senate in 2015. The bill had backing from Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. It is expected to be reintroduced sometime this spring.
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