SAFE Banking Act gives it the ‘ole college try

By David Ross

When most people hear about cannabis and banking they don’t have much of an opinion.  They just represent two separate words:  cannabis and banking.  But those two side by side are complex.  When you purchased marijuana from your local dealer, you didn’t think about where that money actually went.  Some did, the more analytical type who are always wondering how any individual lives their lives, but many others thought the dealer stored the cash in a shoe box underneath the couch.  Whether or not they had a Wells Fargo account?  Not your problem.  

But in the world of cannabis reform, this murky path we hold one another’s hands and clutch our Rosaries through, cannabis banking has had a long history of complications.  

Banks are game to have marijuana live inside their vaults but they’re too afraid to take that risk with marijuana not being legal on the federal level.  This is why Congressman Ed Perlmutter of Colorado introduced the SAFE Banking Act on March 18 of 2021.  

The bill “generally prohibits a federal banking regulator from penalizing a depository institution for providing banking services to a legitimate cannabis-related business.  Prohibited penalties include terminating or limiting the deposit insurance or share insurance of a depository institution solely because the institution provides financial services to a legitimate cannabis-related business and prohibiting or otherwise discouraging a depository institution from offering financial services to such a business” reads the summary of the bill.  There’s other fun stuff included like banks wouldn’t be subject to anti-money laundering laws because marijuana sales would be lawful, nor would they be liable to asset forfeiture for providing loans.  

This bill has passed the House yet again but its hurdle is Senate Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey).  They’re advocates of comprehensive reform, which we are as well.  They want to remove marijuana from the controlled substances list and ensure that people are prevented from federal services, like public housing.

The above is a tricky debate, one that we’re not going to even touch in full right now.  The ghostly elephant in the Chamber is criminal justice reform.  What are we going to do with all of these individuals we’ve been locking up this entire time?  Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to come to a consensus on that.  America is as addicted to incarceration as it is to drugs.  

Banking is a step though.  That’s not lobbying language either.  Even the Civil Rights Movement’s landmarks were achieved incrementally.  Just how change takes place.  This isn’t going to look like what people think but it will be something until it turns into the something we want. 

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