Cannabis Banking Bill Stymied
What is the SAFE Banking Act?
Cannabis industry advocates and executives had their hopes dashed once again after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked the SAFE Banking Act from Congress' $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, The Hill reports. This is the third time the bill has failed to get through the Senate, a blow to an industry that grows larger yearly.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is a bipartisan bill that would reverse federal restrictions blocking cannabis business owners from accessing financial services. Even though 37 states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, the drug remains illegal on the national level. Because of this, cannabis business owners face an uphill battle when trying to secure banking services. Banks and other financial institutions that process funds for cannabis companies are at risk of being charged with money laundering, and federal regulatory agencies could also impose fines and penalties for violating federal laws.
Despite bipartisan support for the bill in both chambers, McConnell has been adamant about not allowing it to advance. He first blocked the act from inclusion in the defense bill earlier this month, claiming it would make the nation's financial system "more sympathetic to illegal drugs," per The Hill.
Supporters of the SAFE Banking Act warn that failure to pass it could negatively affect the cannabis industry. Without access to financial institutions, most cannabis businesses operate cash-only establishments, which puts them at risk of robbery and encourages the proliferation of the illegal market.
"Not only did the Senate squander a chance to score a bipartisan victory this year," said Khadijah Tribble, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council, "its inaction threatens public safety and undermines the progress states are making in mending the racial inequities of the war on drugs."