Will the financial gates finally open for the cannabis industry? The CEO of the Ameican Bankers Association (ABA) certainly thinks so.
CEO Rob Nichols said in an interview on the podcast Engage with Andy Busch that he won’t just be waiting around to see what happens to cannabis banking, either. The ABA is actively lobbying Congress to push forward the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. Currently, the SAFE Banking Act has over 200 cosponsors, including a couple dozen Republicans, and has whizzed through the House Financial Services Committee.
The SAFE Banking Act would give banks and other financial institutions much needed clarity on how they can safely work with cannabis-related businesses without facing federal penalties. These changes need to come from an act of Congress, according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who spoke to Congress about cannabis banking last year. Even without a clear go-ahead from federal regulators, banks have taken on significantly more cannabis customers, but it’s still not enough to service everyone in the cannabis industry.
It hasn’t all been a breeze. There have been some setbacks during the SAFE Banking Act’s journey through the House of Representatives and now it’s companion bill in the Senate. The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing on the SAFE Banking Act, but none of the Republican committee members attended, except for Committee Chair Sen. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho.
Even with those hurdles, Nichols said on the podcast that he expected to see this bill pass in the House “as early as September—probably no later than October—will pass the full House of Representatives by a bipartisan majority, which is exciting.” The Senate is not yet a foregone conclusion, however.
Nichols acknowledged that banking is not the only issue at stake here, even though he said he never expected to be an advocate for cannabis. “We understand the cultural, societal, and moral implications of this issue, but we need federal rule clarity so banks know who they can and cannot lend money to,” he told the podcast.
The ABA aren’t the only ones who want to see the SAFE Banking Act pass. Earlier this year, 38 U.S. attorneys general (33 from states and 5 from U.S. territories) signed a joint statement urging Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement to Congress, “This is simple: not incorporating an $8.3 billion industry into our banking system is hurting our public safety and economy.”
The lack of banking options for cannabis-related businesses also directly causes problems for the federal government. Even though state-licensed cannabis businesses are federally illegal, they still have to pay federal taxes. That means the IRS receives literally billions of dollars in tax payments in cold, hard cash, causing storage problems and other issues.
Will the SAFE Banking Act pass in the House before Halloween, as Nichols predicts? Let us know what you think in the comments below. If you care about this issue, consider contacting your state representatives and letting them know.