Cannabis Banking Reform Included in Latest COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Cannabis flower - photo: the Ally

Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled the newest bill to provide the next stage of coronavirus relief funding and included language that would improve access to banking services and loans for the regulated cannabis industry.

Nevada’s legal cannabis industry employs as many as 13,000 workers and collected nearly $100 million dollars in state tax in 2018/2019. Due to a federal prohibition on marijuana, the industry that employs some 250,000 nationwide is denied access to banking services and operates entirely in cash.

The banking language in the new relief legislation is identical to the House-approved Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and would make it easier for financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state law, as well as help address serious public health and safety concerns caused by operating in predominantly cash-only environments during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The relief bill, known as the HEROES Act, also includes language preventing applicants for Small Business Administration loans from being disqualified based solely on a criminal conviction.

The full relief legislation is available here.  Banking language begins on page 1066.

The HEROES Act will now be taken up by the rest of the House before a floor vote. If passed, it will go to the Senate for consideration.

“On behalf of the legal cannabis industry, we commend the congressional leadership for prioritizing public health and safety by including sensible cannabis banking policy in this legislation,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Our industry employs hundreds of thousands of Americans and has been deemed ‘essential’ in most states. It’s critically important that essential cannabis workers are not exposed to unnecessary health risks due to outdated federal banking regulations.”

Last week, NCIA joined other cannabis advocacy and industry organizations in urging Congress to include the SAFE Banking Act in the next round of relief funding, citing the ability of cash to carry contagions and the personal proximity required by cash transactions as reasons for urgency in addition to the other safety and transparency concerns addressed by the legislation.

In September, an overwhelming bipartisan majority approved the SAFE Banking Act in the House, but the bill has been delayed pending a markup in the Senate Banking Committee.