CONGRESS MIGHT FINALLY GIVE THE POT INDUSTRY ACCESS TO BANKS.

Author:Boehm, Eric
 
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CONGRESS PASSED ITS first ever standalone bipartisan marijuana legalization bill in 2019. The House of Representatives voted in September to approve the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bill that would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access financial institutions without running afoul of federal law. Currently, nearly all transactions carried out by such businesses must happen in cash: Due to the federal prohibition on marijuana, any financial institution that does business with a pot shop could be charged with violating the federal Controlled Substances Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, and/or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Allowing marijuana businesses access to the banking system would make it easier for them to pay their taxes and their employees. Supporters say it would also cut down on crime. "These businesses and their employees become targets for murder, robbery, assault, and more by dealing in all cash," Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D--Colo.), the bill's sponsor, said just before the House voted for it, 321-103.

The bill's movement through the Senate could be more fraught. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R--Idaho) initially promised to hold a vote on the SAFE Banking Act. But in early November, he said that impeachment proceedings might force a postponement until 2020. No vote was scheduled as of press time. With only four Senate GOP co-sponsors, the bill faces an uphill climb.

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