The growth and acceptance of the cannabis industry over the past several years has been nothing short of amazing, as state after state has climbed on board the bandwagon, legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, or both.
The financial elephant in the room, though, has been the unwillingness of the banking industry to get on board. This is somewhat understandable since cannabis remains a federally controlled substance, but industry growth has been seriously hamstrung by lack of access to the financial tools other business enjoy.
In this very space we’ve shared the stories of California farmers driving for hours to bring sacks full of cash to the state capital to pay their taxes, a situation that would be laughable if it weren’t so sad and backwards. But denied access to the banking tools the rest of us take for granted, those farmers – and much of the industry – must deal in cash.
Now, that state of affairs is worsened by the pandemic: in most parts of the country we’re supposed to be sheltering in place, not driving around to hand things to other people in person. And with a virus that apparently can live a long time on surfaces, the notion of handling cash at all is a bad idea. And dangerous to industry employees. To add insult to injury, this cash-only status has kept legitimate businesses from seeking the financial relief many need to weather the pandemic.
For those reasons and more, a coalition of ten industry groups last week petitioned Congress to include banking reform in the next round of coronavirus relief funding, urging them to include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act – or similar language – to create alternatives to this dangerous and inconvenient situation.
Simply put, the SAFE Act would prohibit regulators from punishing banks that work with cannabis and hemp-related businesses, as long as those businesses are in compliance with state law. This would seem like a no-brainer, and in fact the Act passed the House back in September by a margin of more than three to one, with a companion bill stuck in the Senate Banking Committee.
With cannabis legal in some form in 47 states and more than three million American medical marijuana patients, it’s safe to say we’re past time for this. Let’s hope Congress finally gets it right.
Brytemap produces seed-to-sale software solutions for the cannabis industry. Want to know more? Request a demo.