Bank Access Bill Might Finally Lift Marijuana Out of the Shadows

There’s been this little obstacle standing in the way of a functioning nationwide marijuana market: the law.

(Photo by Budding on Unsplash)

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There’s been this little obstacle standing in the way of a functioning nationwide marijuana market: the law.

State Your Business

Not necessarily in your state — 39 US states have passed laws approving the drug’s use for medical or recreational purposes. The problem is that the country’s relatively full embrace of marijuana (59% of people told a Pew survey last year that they support its legal use) hasn’t extended to federal law, where the drug remains a Schedule I substance without any officially accepted medical use. That’s left cannabis businesses without access to banks, which are regulated by federal laws and are technically supposed to avoid accepting funds generated by criminal activity.

As a result, most cannabis businesses operate as cash-only, which opens up possibilities of more undisputed crimes to occur, such as robberies and money laundering. But now, a ray of hope, of the bipartisan persuasion:

  • The Senate Banking Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would provide legal protection for banks and financial institutions that offer services to cannabis businesses, according to a report by CNBC. It passed 14-9, and will now move to the full chamber floor.
  • Banks themselves have wanted in on the action, with the American Banking Association trade group among those renewing its call for the bill’s passage. And why wouldn’t they — CNBC noted that combined US medical and recreational cannabis sales will reach $33.6 billion by the end of this year, according to industry trade outlet MJBizDaily.

Up in Smoke: Even with marijuana, bipartisanship only goes so far. The question remains whether the bill has any chance of traction by the Republican-controlled House, and a host of amendments will be debated before a final bill even comes up for a vote. Not to mention the bill’s lead GOP sponsor, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, has touted specific provisions of the bill as protecting firearm and energy companies in his state “from the Left’s woke agenda.” Can’t we just all pass the pipe and get along?