Cannabis Business Banking

The overwhelming majority of voters believe that federal law should be amended so that state-licensed marijuana businesses can readily utilize banks and other financial services, according to national survey data compiled by Morning Consult and commissioned by the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Consistent with prior survey data, 65 percent of respondents “support allowing cannabis-related businesses to have access to banking services in states where cannabis is legal.” Moreover, 63 percent of voters agree that allowing cannabis-related businesses to access the banking system will help improve public safety, and 58 percent say that it is “important” that members of the U.S. Senate vote to establish a safe harbor for licensed cannabis businesses.

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NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that the poll results were unsurprising. “Americans understand that no industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions and it is self-evident that this industry, and those consumers that are served by it, remain severely hampered without this access. In order to truly bring the marijuana industry out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to repeal these outdated and discriminatory practices.”

Federal law discourages banks and other financial institutions from maintaining relationships with marijuana businesses because the plant remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. According to data provided by the US Treasury Department earlier this year, only about 11 percent of all US banks and about 4 percent of all US credit unions are “actively providing banking services to marijuana-related businesses.”

Stand-alone legislation remains pending in Congress, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, to amend federal law so that banks and other financial institutions can partner with state-licensed marijuana businesses without fear of federal repercussions. In 2021, members of U.S. House of Representatives passed the the bill by a vote of 321 to 101, with the support of 100 percent of voting Democrats and 51 percent of voting Republicans. Members of the Senate, however, have thus far failed to hear the bill.

More recently, in July, House members again voted in favor of including the bill as an amendment in broader legislation. That marked the seventh time that the chamber had approved the legislation. Ultimately, however, Senate leadership did not take up the provisions.

“It is imperative for the interests of public safety, transparency, and the economic viability of small cannabis businesses that this legislation is approved as soon as possible,” said NORML Political Director Morgan Fox. “The fact that the people’s chamber has approved this measure in various forms multiple times is a clear indicator of where voters stand on this issue. Continued inaction by the Senate on this popular bipartisan reform puts workers and customers at risk of violence, makes it harder for regulators to accurately track cannabis revenue, and perpetuates the high costs and lack of access to capital that are increasingly widening the gap between large and small businesses in the cannabis space when it comes to their chances to succeed. The Senate should take this rational — if incremental — step toward sensible federal cannabis policy through whatever vehicle is available in the current session.”

Survey data compiled in February by Whitney Economics reported that over 70 percent of participating cannabis businesses say that the “lack of access to banking or investment capital” is their top challenge. By comparison, only 42 percent of respondents cited “state regulations” as the most significant burden facing the industry, and only 39 percent cited the “influence of the illicit market.”

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