One of the things that keeps the cannabis industry feeling like they still aren’t quite a legitimate industry is the cash-only nature of the business. Any transactions related to the sale of marijuana in any form, flower, oil, hash, edibles, etc. is still considered to be illegal, according to the federal government at least. For this reason, banks and credit unions, while they would like to invest, simply stay away from the cannabis industry altogether.
This is a very dangerous thing for those working in the industry. Without a safe place to store the thousands of dollars they bring in each week – hundreds or more each day even – they are leaving themselves open to robbery and theft. Governments need to consider that a cash only industry of this size could easily fudge numbers or avoid paying taxes altogether. In the long run, it would definitely be better if banks felt safe working with the cannabis industry.
While there are currently two standalone bills – one each in the House of Representatives and the Senate – it will still likely be a little while before we see them passed. Until then, the Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill which would protect banks who chose to work with those in the marijuana industry. The amendment passed narrowly at 16-14.
This amendment still needs to be approved by a vote of the full Senate and once it is approved it will still need to travel through the House of Representatives before it will be an official part of the Act for the fiscal year 2017. A similar amendment to this one was voted on in the House in 2014 and the Senate in 2015, but neither of those times did it make it to the final bill, leaving banks without a shred of protection from federal prosecution.
“This amendment is really about providing clarity, stability, and security for our banks, credit unions, and small business owners who want to be able to operate in full daylight,” said Murray. “The people in my home state of Washington spoke in favor of marijuana legalization years ago, and as the voice for my state, I will continue to push to help legal businesses access banking services without the fear of prosecution.”
Unfortunately, even if this amendment does pass, many working in the banking industry still say they wouldn’t feel quite comfortable working with cannabusinesses. They say that until there is a more permanent piece of legislature (instead of memos from the current administration or spending bills that change annually), such as the House or Senate bill being signed into law, they will likely continue to steer clear.
The truth is, with the change in administration coming, I wouldn’t blame them for waiting for something more permanent to come around – but it needs to happen soon, before we have a slew of horrible news stories of robberies gone wrong.