Conflicts between state and federal laws are creating legal problems for financial institutions wanting to capitalize on the continued growth of the cannabis industry.
A majority of states have legalized cannabis for medicinal or recreational use, but the beneficial drug remains illegal federally. That situation has created legal issues that pose severe financial and security risks for cannabis businesses that have been largely banned from banks and credit unions.
Without access to basic financial services, some cannabis-related companies such as growers and dispensaries can only operate with cash, complicating their daily operations and increasing their risk of being subject to crimes such as armed robbery.
Now, a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers are pushing to bring much needed change to the industry by supporting the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. The bill would bar federal regulators and prosecutors from penalizing banks and credit unions for serving cannabis businesses, as long as those firms are complying with state law.
"...the American voters have spoken and continue to speak and you can't put the genie back in the bottle. The prohibition is over" said representative Edwin Perlmutter of Colorado.
Supporters of the measure say it would create much needed legal clarity as states embrace the rising acceptance of cannabis. As of now, thirty-three states have legalized the sale and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Ten states plus the District of Columbia have approved recreational use for adults 21 and over.
Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee, stated "regardless of where you fall in this cannabis debate, we have conflicting state and federal law that we have to resolve,"
Sales of legal cannabis have skyrocketed as voters embrace easing restrictions, generating billions of dollars in tax revenue that has benefited schools, infrastructure, and much more. Once cleared by the House, the bill could be sent to the Senate Banking Committee for consideration.
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