Colorado senators are pushing Congress to include Marijuana Banking in the Defense Act

Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have signed a joint letter urging congressional leaders to consider federal legislation that allows marijuana companies access to banking services.

Bennet and John Hickenlooper asked rank-and-file members of the Senate committee currently considering the National Defense Authorization Act, a required federal law enforcement funding law, to include the language of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the broader Defense Act.

“Current law prevents licensed marijuana companies from accessing banking services and products – such as deposits and checking accounts – resulting in companies operating everything in cash,” the letter said on November 24. “Without federally approved banking services, state-licensed cannabis companies cannot write checks, make or receive electronic payments, use a payroll provider, or accept credit and debit cards.”

The SAFE Banking Act, originally enacted by Representative Ed Perlmutter, would allow banks to offer government legal business loans, credit lines, checking accounts and other traditional financial services. The bill has passed Parliament a handful of times as independent legislation or as an amendment to other budget laws since 2019, including the recently adopted House version of the NDAA – but a major push for federal legalization and social compensation from the drug war has moved the SAFE Banking Act to the Senate sideline.

Due to the plant’s federal ban, marijuana companies are banned from financial services and tax deductions, and all institutions that serve these companies are technically at risk of federal drug taxes. Although some smaller banks and credit unions will take on this risk of high fees, the majority of legal marijuana transactions still happen in cash, creating a target for crime, according to Bennet and Hickenlooper.

“This is a serious public security risk to our community, which invites theft, tax evasion, robbery, burglary or worse,” Colorado senators said, adding that operating in cash “further disadvantages the cannabis industry by making it difficult to obtain loans. at reasonable prices. ”

According to an annual marijuana exposure report prepared by Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, burglary related to commercial marijuana increased from 122 in 2019 to 175 in 2020. Despite accounting for less than 1 percent of all businesses in Denver, marijuana companies accounted for 8.6 percent of all reported business burglary in 2020. , the department noted. And LivWell Enlightened Health, one of Colorado’s largest marijuana companies, experienced fifteen burglary attempts over the course of three months last year, a manager there reported.

Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who have pushed for more aggressive pot legislation with provisions on social equality, have suggested that if marijuana banks were approved, it could compromise national legalization efforts by putting one foot in with trade but keeping the other foot out with social justice. In their letter, Bennet and Hickenlooper argue the opposite.

“The legalization of cannabis has created entrepreneurial opportunities out of previously illegal markets, but lack of access to capital limits the ability of potential entrepreneurs and small business owners to enter this new industry,” their letter reads.

Governor Jared Polis was part of a larger push 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 are not alone in asking for the SAFE Banking Act to be passed, but the bill has still not received a vote in the Senate.

However, Hickenlooper, who was governor of Colorado during the first years of legalizing recreational equipment, had some marijuana-related success with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in which he secured a change that requires US Department of Transportation to study how marijuana inhibits driving and push federal marijuana research that better reflects products found in today’s legal markets. That bill was signed by President Joe Biden on November 15th.

The NDAA’s next hearing will be on Tuesday, November 30, with the Senate Banking, Housing, and City Committees. Find Bennet and Hickenlooper’s full letter below.

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