David Burr demonstrates removing leaves on marijuana plants to allow more light for growth at a Las Vegas marijuana-growing facility. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Cannabis dispensaries throughout the country came one step closer to using banks the way many other businesses can when the U.S. House cleared a bill Friday with sweeping changes to banking regulations.
Reps. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., and Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, co-sponsors of the legislation, said Friday their proposal would allow medical and recreational marijuana businesses in states that have legalized use to move away from the cash-only business model they must use under U.S. banking laws.
“We need to bring some sense to what is really dangerous right now in this space that so many states allow for dispensaries, for grow operations,” Perlmutter said. “There’s just a lot of cash and that cash can really pose problems.”
While the federal government has mostly left marijuana business regulation and oversight to the states that have legalized it, the nation’s banking system is controlled at the federal level.
The federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I illegal substance, by definition something with no medical use and a high potential for abuse, means that it’s difficult for cannabis businesses to use banks.
Some marijuana businesses have hired armored vehicles and armed guards to transfer cash to banks. Others operate as cash-only, which Perlmutter and Joyce said can lead to upticks in robberies and other crime.
The so-called SAFE Banking Act passed as part of a larger bill that is geared toward improving U.S. manufacturing and boosting competitiveness with China on several fronts, including semiconductors.
The sponsors were uncertain whether the measure will survive the conference process between the House of Representatives and the Senate.
They said if they are blocked in the Senate, they will keep advocating for the legislation, especially as an amendment to other must-pass bills.
“Every one of these cannabis industries are running according to the laws and regulations that were put in place by that state,” Joyce said. “So why shouldn’t the banking system treat them the same?”
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