SAFE Banking was a much-introduced and more often-sidelined federal bill to provide a safe-harbor for banks doing business with cannabis operators.
The new manifestation, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act, or the SAFER Banking Act, would ensure that state-sanctioned cannabis businesses have access to deposit accounts, and importantly, it includes insurance and other financial services.
Our latest podcast episode sought to get a handle on the bill’s odds, and possibly what’s next, with Morgan Fox, political director at NORML. He has focused on congressional lobbying and changing federal cannabis laws and has been a cannabis policy reform advocate since 2008.
Following are takeaways from that conversation.
“Well, I think it’s really important to note that this really only provides safe harbor, but there are a number of financial institutions, particularly the larger and multinational ones, that aren’t going to touch cannabis with a 10-foot-pole until it’s completely descheduled,” Fox said.
The good news is here are likely to be numbers local and regional banks, as well as credit unions and insurance providers, that will be emboldened to get into cannabis if SAFER Banking passes.
“They are very interested in working with the cannabis industry and need this extra assurance that they will not be prosecuted or risk reputational damage if they do so,” Fox said. “And so, you know, while passage of the Safer Banking Act is not going to completely open up the banking system to cannabis businesses, it will provide enough assurance for a significant number of financial services providers and other institutions to be able to start working with the cannabis industry.”
As more financial services providers come into offer even the most basic financial services to cannabis companies, it will likely make them much more attractive to insurance providers.
As it stands now, dispensaries are a big cash business, putting them in the crosshairs of criminals.
“Those insurance providers will be much more interested in reaching out to potential customers within the licensed cannabis industry, knowing that they are not going to have to deal with the large amounts of cash, which from an insurance provider standpoint obviously creates a lot of potential liability risks given the huge amounts of cash and the public safety and crime threats that that poses,” Fox said.
The big question, of course, are what the bill’s chances are, considering SAFE Banking was introduced and killed more than once.
“When it comes to the Senate floor, I am optimistic that it will pass, and I do not think that it will be brought to the Senate floor until it has enough votes to pass,” he said. “In my conversations with Senate leadership, this has been the recurring theme and the intent to get it to the floor as soon as possible has been reiterated to me time and again. That being said. The pathway in House is really in question right now, because everything in the House is in question.”