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US Senate Finally Passes Banking Bill

Cash-only banking does two things- it makes criminals out of state-licensed cannabis businesses and it leads to dangerous and sometimes deadly transactions involving piles of cash. The United States Senate passed a bill which would allow cannabis businesses to participate in national banking which all other industries enjoy. Cannabis business owners have been seeking fairness ever since Colorado became the first state to legalize cannabis.

Currently, there is no difference in the eyes of the federal government, between cannabis businesses and any other criminal that launders money. Banks suffer equally, sometimes being overloaded with insane cash deposits come tax time. Major Banks see the cannabis industry as a liability.

Senator Jeff Merkley and six other bi-partisans cosponsored the bill. Most importantly, the bill would introduce crucial licensing, preventing the government from prosecuting cannabis businesses, seizing assets and cancelling their FDIC insurance.

Two cannabis banking bill are already in the works- one bill introduced by the House and another bill introduced by the Senate. Both standalone bills would make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business.

Harry Reid and Senators Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, Patty Murray and Senator Ron Paul all sponsored the bill. “Small, legal businesses should not be turned away from banking services because of fear of unjustified federal prosecution, and this legislation will ensure that they have access to the same services as other small businesses and can continue to grow and succeed,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Similar efforts in the past have fallen short, facing opposition in the House of Representatives. Several bills were scrapped in 2014 and 2015.

Large amounts of hot cash have led a man to be mutilated by kidnappers in one extreme case. “Without banks, many of our members are forced to operate entirely in cash, which puts their employees at risk for crime and creates massive challenges for businesses simply trying to pay their taxes, licensing fees and other ordinary expenses,” wrote Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association in a press release. “The legal marijuana industry is worth nearly $3 billion nationwide. We shouldn’t be forced to carry that around in duffel bags.”

The Obama Administration released “guidance” which was intended to make things easier for cannabis businesses. Only when federal law changes, will cannabis business owners be safe. The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act was introduced last year in the House to give clarity. “The legislation removes current legal uncertainty by providing a ‘safe harbor’ and additional civil protections for depository institutions” that work with the marijuana industry, Representatives Denny Heck (D-Washington) and Ed Perl mutter(D-Colorado) said. “Allowing tightly regulated marijuana business the ability to access the banking system significantly reduces the public safety threat.”

The new broader bill would fix the problem at its root and bring fairness to the industry. Isn’t it time we stop punishing cannabis businesses that operate within state laws?




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