Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) has signaled support for the fledgling marijuana industry in the U.S. by looking to add cannabis-friendly provisions in upcoming COVID-19 relief bills considered by Congress. As reported in Marijuana Moment, Perlmutter is seeking better access to banking for cannabis companies as well as the opportunity for those businesses to use pandemic-related SBA loans.
Perlmutter indicated that House leadership also supports pro-cannabis banking legislation during a recorded town hall meeting. “The Speaker,” he relayed, referring to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), “said she would like it passed.”
Because cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug at the federal level, the industry currently has little access to banking services—even while operating under strict legal rubrics and contributing to tax revenue. Cannabis entrepreneurs face challenges when seeking business loans or lines of credit; public safety is another pressing issue because cash-only businesses are frequent targets of theft.
The need to shift away from the cash-only model is an increasingly pressing one for marijuana businesses today, as COVID-19-related social distancing guidelines have made more consumers and employees wary of handling bills and coins. Most people consider touchless pay options, such as online credit card payments, a better choice.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking act, which would allow marijuana businesses to access banking services without changing cannabis’ federal legal status, passed the House in September 2019. Today, it sits in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, where it will need to be considered and amended before moving to the Senate floor—a series of moves that are now delayed by urgent pandemic-related legislation.
The CARES act passed on March 27th and provides $377 billion in small business protections but excludes marijuana and marijuana-adjacent businesses. Hemp growers and processers whose products contain less than .3% THC, however, are eligible to access relief funds.
Meanwhile, dispensaries—which have been classified as essential in many states—continue to serve patients and customers without the protection or convenience of banking services.
Perlmutter indicated that Congress’ upcoming relief package is not likely to expand banking access for marijuana businesses but expressed cautious optimism that the following package will do so.