by Angela Underwood
The U.S. Senate is presently pondering the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act vote, while the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) fights for its passage.
The SAFE Banking act, which would protect medical and adult-use cannabis-based businesses from prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice, received a final roll call vote in September, making it the first-ever piece of legislation that would allow banks and credit unions to service medicinal and recreational dispensaries.
The CTF federal lobbying team quickly turned its attention to the Senate following the House’s approval of the SAFE Banking Act after having its then-chairman John Lord, CEO of LivWell Enlightened Health, testify during the Senate Banking Committee’s hearing on the challenges of cannabis and banking, according to Steve Fox, strategic advisor for CTF.
“In addition to (Capitol) Hill meetings, the federation is coordinating a lobby day in which leaders of CTF member businesses from around the country will be traveling to D.C. to meet with Senate offices and provide firsthand accounts of how their businesses, their employees, and their communities are affected by the current lack of access to banking and financial services,” Fox, former Marijuana Policy Project adviser, said.
Because cannabis companies heavily, or entirely, rely on cash they aren’t able to access basic banking services like direct deposit for their employees, he added.
“Those businesses that do find a bank willing to provide them with services often have to pay much higher fees than other types of businesses, which increases operating costs and disproportionately hurts smaller businesses,” Fox said.
Though Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) wrote the bill five years ago, his fellow Colorado Congressmen, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn voted against it in September. Lamborn’s office did not return request for comment by The New York Daily Weed Report and Buck referred to his September Washington Examiner Op-ed.
“In its current form, this bill will open up our banking system to abuse from drug cartels, as well as illegal growers and distributors. It will also allow Schedule I drugs to cross state lines,” Buck wrote.
But Buck’s rejection does not reflect the cross-party consensus the SAFE Banking Act received, according to Fox.
“It received strong bipartisan support in the House, and the Republican leader of the Senate Banking Committee has expressed interest in taking up the issue this year,” Fox said. “The SAFE Baking Act is not a Democratic or Republican issue—it’s a public safety, financial transparency, and regulatory compliance issue.”
Fox said financial institutions generally refuse to provide loans to cannabis businesses, which is especially difficult for newer and smaller companies that need capital to get their footing in such a new and quickly evolving industry.
“The SAFE Banking Act would reduce banking-related costs and create more access to capital, which will help new businesses compete with those that are already established,” Fox said. “It will also bolster efforts to expand minority ownership in the cannabis industry.”
And the CTF will be ready and waiting.
“CTF is a coalition of businesses that represents all aspects of the cannabis industry, so passage of the SAFE Banking Act would significantly and positively impact all of our members,” Fox said, adding it will also protect nonprofit organizations like CTF that have had their accounts closed due to their association with the industry.
The CTF is encouraging citizens to contact their respective officials as soon as possible to assure the SAFE Banking Act remains front-and-center as the U.S. Senate is presently pondering the act.
“This is something lawmakers can get behind regardless of their party or even their position on broader cannabis policy issues,” Fox said.