SAFER Banking Act

From Duffel Bags to Bank Accounts: The SAFER Banking Act's Historic Leap

Understand how the SAFER Banking Act aims to revolutionize the cash-strapped cannabis industry.

Why It's Important

The SAFER Banking Act is a game-changer for the U.S. marijuana industry. It aims to provide legal cannabis businesses with access to essential financial services, moving them away from the risky all-cash model. This is crucial for the industry's growth and safety, as the current cash-only operations make these businesses prime targets for theft and other crimes.

Brief History

The SAFER Banking Act is an evolution of the earlier SAFE Banking Act, which never gained traction in the Senate. This new version started its legislative journey in the Senate and recently cleared the Senate Banking Committee with a 14-9 vote. The bill has undergone several amendments to gain bipartisan support, especially from Republicans who had previously obstructed similar legislation.

Industry Impact

The SAFER Banking Act addresses a critical public safety issue that has long plagued the cannabis industry. Currently, many cannabis businesses are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, which poses significant risks. Imagine having to travel to the state capital with "duffel bags full of cash" just to pay your taxes. This not only puts businesses at risk of theft but also makes them targets for organized crime.

Oregon Cannabis Association President Hunter Neubauer highlighted the public safety risks, stating that cannabis businesses are at a "significant disadvantage" due to the lack of traditional banking resources. The absence of banking services also impacts the ability to raise capital, forcing businesses to rely on private individuals or small family offices, often at exorbitant interest rates.

Moreover, the lack of access to credit and other financial services hampers the growth of these businesses, putting them at a disadvantage compared to other industries. The SAFER Banking Act aims to level the playing field by providing access to essential financial services, including small business loans and credit.

Next Steps and Timelines

The bill is now headed to the Senate floor, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer plans to incorporate additional legislation focused on state-level cannabis expungements and protecting gun rights for marijuana consumers. The timeline for its passage remains uncertain, but it has garnered support from both sides of the aisle, increasing its chances.

The Bigger Picture

While the SAFER Banking Act is a significant step, it's part of a larger journey towards federal legalization and reform. The U.S. is at a point where almost half of the states have legalized marijuana, and more are expected to follow suit. The act could pave the way for further legislation that ensures safe and unrestricted access to legal cannabis for all Americans aged 21 and older.

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