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More than two months after the House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act yet again, pressure is mounting on the U.S. Senate to finally take up the legislation that would allow financial institutions to provide services to cannabis businesses.
The latest round of lobbying came last week from a pair of state treasurers: Colorado’s Dave Young and Washington’s Mike Pellicciotti.
The two Democratic officials took to Twitter on Friday to sound the alarm on the dangers posed to cannabis dispensaries in the absence of the reform.
In Washington state, a spate of robberies of cannabis stores has underscored how vulnerable such establishments are due to the amount of cash on hand.
“Colorado weed stores, along with other states with legal cannabis businesses, are headed into their busiest week of the year,” Young tweeted, alluding to this week’s 4/20 festivities, “yet these businesses must dangerously operate in a cash-based world. Let’s pass the #SAFEBankingAct this #fourtwenty.”
Pellicciotti’s official account, meanwhile, shared a news story from last week detailing an armed robbery of a cannabis shop that ended in a chase with Washington State Patrol.
“Another alarming example of why #Congress needs to pass the #SAFEBankingACT and allow access banking for a safer #cannabis retail industry,” the tweet from Pellicciotti’s account said.
Pellicciotti went to Washington, D.C. last month to meet with members of his state’s Congressional delegation, and to convey the urgency surrounding the bill.
Last month, the Seattle Times reported that there had been nearly 70 armed robberies of cannabis shops in the state this year, doubling the totals for all of last year and 2020.
“You rob the places where the cash is,” Pellicciotti said after his lobbying trip, as quoted by local television station KING5. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”
”You can’t have a $1.4 billion a year transaction taking place in the state of Washington in cash and not have the risk of these type of robberies … It’s time,” added Pellicciotti.
Pellicciotti wasn’t the only one promoting the bill on Capitol Hill. The Hill reported that there was “an in-person lobbying blitz” last month involving “more than 20 chief executives of top cannabis companies [who] urged lawmakers in both parties to pass the SAFE Banking Act.”
The House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act in February.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the House also passed the bill last year.
In fact, February’s passage marked the sixth time that the SAFE Banking Act won approval in the House since it was originally introduced in 2013 by Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter.
“Cannabis-related businesses—big and small—and their employees are in desperate need of access to the banking system and access to capital in order to operate in an efficient, safe manner and compete in the growing global cannabis marketplace,” Perlmutter said in a statement following the latest passage.
With about six months to go until the midterm elections, the onus is on Democrats in the Senate to get the two major pieces of federal cannabis reform over the finish line.
In addition to the SAFE Banking Act, the Democratic-led House also approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act at the beginning of the month, a bill that would end the federal prohibition on cannabis.
The Democratic leadership in the Senate intends to introduce its own version of a legalization bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, but that legislation likely won’t be unveiled until sometime this summer.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate’s legalization bill will be introduced ahead of the Congressional recess in August. Schumer had previously said that the measure would be introduced by the end of this month.
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