The latest Covid-19 stimulus package, which U.S. House Democrats released Monday, again includes banking provisions for state-licensed weed businesses.
The updated version of the HEROES Act, which initially passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May, includes the text of the SAFE Banking Act for a second time in the new legislation.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act creates legal pathways for banks and other financial institutions to legally service state-licensed weed operators without federal interference.
If the new Covid relief bill passes, it will mark the third time the U.S. House has approved SAFE Banking legislation. House members initially passed a standalone version of the banking bill last fall, while passing the language again in the initial HEROES Act.
After delaying a historic cannabis legalization bill earlier this month, House Democrats said the US$2.2 trillion Covid stimulus bill could get a floor vote as early as this week.
“The inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in the HEROES 2.0 package is a positive development,” NORML political director Justin Strekal said in a statement. “In the majority of states that regulate the marijuana marketplace, cannabis businesses have been deemed essential during this pandemic.”
“Unfortunately, at the federal level, prohibition compounds the problems that this emerging industry faces. Small cannabis businesses in particular are facing tough economic times and access to traditional financial tools will help ensure that they can weather this pandemic.”
"Small cannabis businesses in particular are facing tough economic times and access to traditional financial tools will help ensure that they can weather this pandemic”
– #NORML's Political Director @justinstrekal https://t.co/fwKCBiV37e
— NORML (@NORML) September 29, 2020
While the standalone version of the SAFE Banking Act received bipartisan support in 2019, passing with more than a three-to-one margin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has openly criticized the legislation. The Republican senator has specifically taken issue with certain social equity provisions within the bill, as well as claims purported by Democrat leaders related to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
NORML’s Strekal warns that without access to much needed capital during the pandemic, America could see an acceleration of corporate capture in the industry. The banking bill would ensure that small businesses could compete in the emerging market, he argues.
Advocates at the Marijuana Policy Project say the legislation would bolster social equity licence holders by giving them better access to the market via the ability to access loans.
The organization also cites how important the legislation is right now to protect public health because it would open up credit card and electronic transactions. Currently, most weed businesses operate on a cash-only basis which can spread the coronavirus and make them more susceptible to theft.
Top image of the United States Capitol by Phil Roeder via Flickr