SAFE Banking Act would let pot shops use banks

Washington-DC
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FILE – This Sept. 11, 2018, file photo shows a marijuana plant in the coastal mountain range of San Luis Obispo, Calif. California legislators are considering a plan to encourage more banks to do business with its legal marijuana industry. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — US banks can face fines and penalties for working with marijuana-related businesses because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

The SAFE Banking Act would change that — but it still faces stiff opposition.

The SAFE Banking Act would give the marijuana and cannabis industry access to banks.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) supports the bill.

“Cannabis or marijuana businesses that exist through states like Nevada that have allowed it, to utilize financial services,” Cortez Masto said. 

She said as the name implies, the SAFE Banking Act would make marijuana businesses safer. With no banks to process credit card payments, they’re cash only.

“Of course any time there’s cash, an abundance of cash around a business, you’re always going to have concerns for safety and security,” she said. 

The bill has bipartisan support in Congress and from top state law enforcement officials across the country. Thirty-eight attorneys general have signed a letter urging Congress to pass it.

Organizations that oppose legal marijuana say that’s astonishing because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“And what we’re talking about is criminal federal enterprises access to the banks,” said Luke Niforantos with Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “Are we going to do that with other illegal ‘industries’ that the mob runs or that the cartels are running?” 

He also disputes the notion that the marijuana industry is cash-based.

“They’re actually not accepting cash,” he said. “They’re using electronic bank transfers and receiving checks. There’s kind of a misnomer out there that there’s just piles of cash lying around.”

He said the real reason they want access to banks is to attract more investors. He said more money could turn the marijuana industry into the next “Big Tobacco.”

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