Attorneys General Across America Call for Cannabis Banking Reform
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
As reported by Cleveland.com, Ohio Attorney General David Yost announced Wednesday that he joined a bipartisan coalition that are advocating Congress to pass legislation that would provide legal access to the federal banking system for cannabis businesses licensed in state-approved programs! This is a significant change in direction for Yost on the issue of marijuana as he held a rather anti-marijuana stance during his election this past year - going as far as to say the program will "create chaos."
Marijuana Banking Reform Gains a New Ally
Yost joins 37 other state and territorial attorneys general that are members of the National Association of Attorneys General, an organization endorsing the SAFE Banking Act as an official policy position. This is a rare stance for the NAAG seeing as the group endorses fewer than a dozen policies a year, according to Cleveland.com.
A letter was sent to congressional leaders this week urging legislators to "Please, let us bank the money generated by the country's booming cannabis business."
The lack of federal involvement in cannabis banking has led to a myriad of concerns, from safety of patients and cannabis-business employees, to the hoard of money removed from the economy, to tracking and taxing these businesses accurately.
What is the SAFE Banking Act?
The 2016 legislation Ohio passed implementing a medical marijuana program for qualifying patients also exempted banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions from Ohio's criminal laws for providing services to cannabis-related businesses. However, federal regulators still prohibit financial institutions from providing services to these businesses; even if a bank has an Ohio charter, it is often still regulated by the federal government due to insurance technicalities.
The U.S. House Financial Services Committee approved House Resolution 1595, known as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, in March of this year. The measure now moves to a full-House vote, and with approval would move on to the Senate. Thus far the bill has attracted 175 co-sponsors - and counting - from both parties. However, American Banker magazine notes that the primary obstacle with implementing this legislation will be getting the Senate leadership to prioritize this measure in the chaotic political environment of D.C.
What Does This All Mean?
Yost's change of position seems to be based on the security fears associated with forcing businesses to operate in a cash-only environment:
“When a business is dealing strictly in cash, they’re inviting a whole host of problems,” Yost, said in a statement. “No legal business should have to operate in a manner that provides little to no security in their financial transactions.”
This policy switch by Yost could possibly reflect a new growing wave of Republicans that see the benefits that will come with marijuana decriminalization, and eventual legalization. Cannabis needs as many allies as it can get at the Capitol, and to see a more grassroots, bipartisan effort shows a dramatic increase in cannabis reform interest and prioritization.
The SAFE Banking Act is just one piece of federal legislation aimed at reforming archaic cannabis laws that is currently being considered. Make sure to check in this Sunday for an overview of the different federal legislative reforms for cannabis that are actively being discussed, including reforms of the VA's stance on medical marijuana as well as gun-owner's rights to hold both a medical marijuana card and CCW.
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