Medical cannabis leaders frustrated as SAFE Banking Act dies in Congress

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The legislation's failure this year means dispensaries still can't engage in traditional banking.

Legislation that would legitimize finances for the medical marijuana industry will not be heard in lame duck session.

Senate leadership would not include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1996) in a defense budget bill passed last week. The measure also failed to make its way into a continuing resolution ensuring the federal government stays funded into the new year.

That means the measure, which was passed in the House last April, is likely dead for the 117th Congress. Medical cannabis leaders in Florida say that’s a missed opportunity for a growing industry.

“We are deeply disappointed in leadership on both sides of the aisle and the lack of action on SAFE Banking over the past two years,” said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve.

“Despite significant bipartisan support within Congress and increasing popularity among constituents, cannabis reform to allow basic banking services for state legal cannabis companies has once again failed to advance. As a result, the 425,000 employees working in the legal cannabis industry will continue to face undue risk of robberies and economic harm. Trulieve will continue to fight for meaningful cannabis reform to provide greater security for our employees and increased access to cannabis.”

The House passed the bill last year with a solid 321-101 vote. No Democrats voted against it, and all 10 Democrats representing Florida supported the legislation. Meanwhile, 106 Republicans favored the bill and just 101 voted no. Similarly, the bill split the Florida delegation, but had the support of Florida Reps. Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, María Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube and Mike Waltz.

Perhaps more important than party, that means every member of the Florida congressional delegation under the age of 50 supported the bill.

If the bill passed, it would prohibit penalizing banking institutions for providing services to cannabis-related businesses.

The fact marijuana remains illegal under federal law has made banking difficult even in states like Florida where the sale of medical cannabis is legal. Wells Fargo in 2018 notoriously closed down campaign accounts for Nikki Fried — who would go on to win the Agriculture Commissioner race anyway — because marijuana companies had donated.

While strides have been made, medical marijuana remains a logistically difficult business. Dispensaries must work only in cash because financial institutions will not facilitate transactions over their networks, for example, and many banks will not work with companies in the cannabis trade.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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