A bipartisan bill that would allow marijuana businesses to access banking services in states where the substance is legal is in jeopardy as the lame-duck Congress looks to wrap up its work this week.
Known as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, the bill seeks to allow legal, legitimate marijuana businesses to access financial services by creating a safe harbor for banks and credit unions. Currently, many federally-insured financial institutions decline to give cannabis businesses full access to their services due to a perceived risk of criminal prosecution given that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
As a result, many pot dispensaries and other marijuana-related businesses in states that have legalized recreational cannabis carry out transactions in cash and restrict customers’ ability to use credit or debit cards, and some even have ATMs inside the store. That dynamic has created an elevated risk of crime as would-be thieves know the businesses and their couriers have relatively large amounts of cash on hand. Numerous armed robberies and burglaries targeting marijuana dispensaries have been reported in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and virtually every state that has legalized recreational or medical cannabis businesses.