A letter signed by 38 Attorneys General from US states and territories has been sent to Congress calling for banking access for marijuana businesses.
The letter, which was spearheaded by Colorado AG Phil Weiser (D), specifically calls for Congress to pass the already popular SAFE Banking Act - a bill that is expected to be voted on by the House in the coming weeks. If passed, the bill would allow banks to provide financial services to state-legalized cannabis enterprises without fear of prosecution. Under current federal regulations, banks could be charged with money laundering if they work with cannabis businesses, even ones operating according to state law.
This means that most legal marijuana businesses are forced to deal exclusively in cash transactions. Not only does this make things like paying taxes inconvenient and even more expensive, but it also increases the risk that marijuana businesses will be the target of theft plots, says the letter.
"Regardless of how individual policymakers feel about states permitting the use of medical or recreational marijuana, the reality of the situation requires federal rules that permit a sensible banking regime for legal businesses," says the letter.
The AGs' letter follows a similar one sent to Congressional lawmakers by a group of 17 bipartisan state treasurers earlier this month. Their letter, which was put together by Oregon's Tobias Read (D), argues that providing access to banking services not only makes things safer for folks in the legal pot business, but also largely reduces public safety concerns legislators might have about the industry.
"Without banking services, cannabis businesses are less able to obey the law, pay taxes, and follow state regulations of the industry," wrote the treasurers. "The public safety risks posed by these businesses are easily mitigated through access to banking service providers and keeping the cash off the streets. Nearly every US state has a stake in this issue."
The issuing of the letter proves that the top law enforcers in most jurisdictions want the legal cannabis industry to be treated just like any other business. And passing the SAFE Banking Act would be a great first step towards that.
Now let's just hope Congress acts on this endorsement.