Colorado Senators Push Congress To Include Marijuana Bank In Defense Bill
Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper signed a joint letter urging congressional leaders to consider federal legislation allowing marijuana companies to access banking services.
Bennet and John Hickenlooper called on senior members of Senate committees currently considering the National Defense Authorization Act, a funding bill required for federal law enforcement, to include the language of Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the broader defense bill.
“The current law prevents licensed marijuana businesses from accessing banking products and services – such as deposit accounts and checking accounts – resulting in businesses operating entirely in cash,” the letter read. November 24. “Without federally approved banking services, state-licensed cannabis companies cannot write checks, make or receive electronic payments, use a payroll service provider, or accept credit and debit cards. ”
Originally introduced by Representative Ed Perlmutter, the SAFE Banking Act would allow banks to offer commercial loans, lines of credit, checking accounts and other traditional legal financial services. The bill has been passed by the House several times as stand-alone legislation or as an amendment to other budget bills since 2019, including the recently passed House version of the NDAA – but a Greater pressure for federal legalization and social reparations for the war on drugs have moved the SAFE Banking Act to the fringes of the Senate.
Due to the federal plant ban, marijuana businesses are banned from financial services and tax deductions, and all institutions that serve those businesses are technically exposed to federal drug charges. Although some small banks and credit unions take on this risk for high fees, the majority of legal marijuana transactions are still in cash, creating a target for crime, according to Bennet and Hickenlooper.
“This is a serious risk to the public safety of our communities, inviting theft, tax evasion, burglary, burglary or worse,” Colorado senators said, adding that operating in cash “Further disadvantages the cannabis industry by making it difficult to obtain reasonably priced loans.”
According to an annual report on the impact of marijuana compiled by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, burglaries associated with commercial marijuana have increased from 122 in 2019 to 175 in 2020. Although they represent less than 1% of all Denver companies, marijuana companies accounted for 8.6%. of all reported business burglaries in 2020, the department noted. And LivWell Enlightened Health, one of Colorado’s largest marijuana companies, suffered fifteen attempted break-ins over a three-month period last year, an official there reported.
Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who have advocated for more aggressive forms of pot law with social fairness provisions, have suggested that if the marijuana bank is approved it could jeopardize the national legalization effort by putting one foot in commerce, but keeping the other foot out with social justice. In their letter, Bennet and Hickenlooper argue otherwise.
“The legalization of cannabis has created opportunities for entrepreneurship in once illicit markets, but the lack of access to capital limits the ability of future entrepreneurs and small business owners to enter this emerging industry,” their report reads. letter.
Gov. Jared Polis was part of a larger campaign for the SAFE Banking Act earlier in November, joining 23 other governors who signed a letter asking Senators to add the bill as an amendment to the NDAA. Colorado politicians aren’t the only ones pushing for passage of the SAFE Banking Act, but the bill has yet to receive a vote in the Senate.
However, Hickenlooper, who was governor of Colorado during the early years of recreational legalization, had some marijuana-related success with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in which he obtained an amendment requiring the Department of Transportation of the United States is studying how marijuana interferes with driving. and push for federal marijuana research that better reflects products found in today’s legal markets. This bill was signed by President Joe Biden on November 15.
The next NDAA hearing will take place on Tuesday, November 30 with the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Find Bennet and Hickenlooper’s full letter below.