The cannabis industry celebrated a decade of hitting the nation’s capitol in force with over 100 in attendance for The National Cannabis Industry Association’s (NCIA) annual lobby day. 

Those industry leaders would find themselves in over 100 meetings, with many speaking on the most pressing aspect for many — banking access. 

The most polarizing issue in cannabis at the moment is banking access. On the one hand, you have the body count in places like L.A., Oakland, and the Pacific Northwest in recent years; on the other, the risk that a quick fix would take it out of play for wider negotiations about equity in cannabis. Survival and equity are both great causes and nobody should be mad at anyone for pushing either. 

But there are a lot of pressing concerns about safety. Locally, Green Qween experienced its second robbery since opening earlier this year. We recently covered the robbery of one of NorCal’s most storied delivery services. Another operator told us their facility was hit three times in a little over a week not long after we posted our last piece on the crime wave in August. The tale of what the industry is experiencing on the ground and SAFE Banking are undoubtedly tightly knotted together.  

NCIA’s founder and CEO Aaron Smith told L.A. Weekly the industry hopes to find some solutions for the banking talks running parallel to the legalization in the months ahead. 

“Our members joined us in the full court press to urge the Senate to finally take action on the cannabis banking crisis last week because lives are literally on the line every day of inaction,” Smith said. “We commend them for taking the time out of their busy lives to support the industry at this critical time. I’m hopeful Senate will take notice and approve the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act by year’s end.”

The Pacific Northwest has been one of the trouble spots outside of California for the industry when it comes to safety. Portland alone has experienced 12 armed robberies this year, as noted by Willamette Week last month when it described the industry as terrorized. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one of the Democrats taking the lead to help the industry push banking access.  

“Every legal business deserves the same access to the same resources as any other — resources like bank accounts, loans, payment processing, and so much more,” Merkley said. “When it comes to cannabis, the country is changing fast and it’s long past time that our federal laws caught up. With more and more states across the country voting to change their cannabis laws, we cannot keep forcing these legitimate businesses to operate entirely with cash.”

Merkley went on to call the ban on cannabis banking nonsensical and an open invitation to robbery and money laundering. 

“Let’s make 2022 the year that we get this bill signed into law, so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees and communities safe,” Merkley said. 

Montana Sen. Steve Daines reminded us all that this was a bipartisan safety issue from the other side of the aisle. 

“This is a public safety issue — when legal Montana cannabis businesses don’t have a way to safely conduct business and are forced to operate in all cash, our communities become vulnerable to crime. Our bipartisan bill provides the needed certainty for Montana businesses to freely use banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without worrying about punishment,” Daines said. “I stand with the attorneys general across America that want to increase public safety and reduce crime — it’s time we pass our bipartisan SAFE Banking Act.”

Rep. Earl Perlmutter (D-CO) originally introduced the SAFE Banking effort nearly a decade ago. 

“Nine years after first introducing legislation to allow cannabis businesses access to the banking system, the $25 billion industry is still forced to operate primarily in cash. That’s not right. We need to save lives and create a more equitable industry, and in order to do so, the Senate needs to pass SAFE Banking,” said Perlmutter. 

Perlmutter echoed NCIA’s hopes for the year’s end. He believes this period leading up to the new year will have a real opportunity to see meaningful action. He’s calling on his peers on the other side of the hill to make it happen. 









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