Anti-pot group bashes House for including cannabis banking bill in coronavirus relief

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House Democrats’ latest round of legislation for economic relief from the coronavirus pandemic released on Tuesday included a provision that would allow the financial sector to serve cannabis businesses. 

The House is expected to pass the $3 trillion bill Friday and it includes the House-passed Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow banks and financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a group opposing marijuana legalization, said in response that including this provision “makes no sense.” 

“Numerous industries have been forced to completely shut down and have made great sacrifices to comply with shutdowns and limitations on their business operations. The marijuana industry has been a painfully obvious exception to this. This industry has used its lobbying arm to force state officials to keep their storefronts open, sued leaders who shut them down, and bragged incessantly about their revenues,” CEO Kevin Sabet said in a statement. 

Twenty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to remain open during the pandemic, and several allow both licensed recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries to operate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office in a statement to The Hill responded to SAM by noting that the SAFE Banking Act already passed the House overwhelmingly in September. The bill, however, faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate. 

The provision in the coronavirus relief package stated, “the purpose of this section is to increase public safety by ensuring access to financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers and reducing the amount of cash at such businesses.”

Sabet said that coronavirus relief should be for those suffering during the pandemic, not industries making money.

“Simply put, we cannot allow much-needed aid bills such as this to be loaded up with the wish lists of Big Pot. Thankfully, due to conversations with key members of Congress and continued advocacy by SAM’s supporters, it is unlikely these provisions will make it to the President’s desk,” he said.

The cannabis lobby has long fought for Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act. The National Cannabis Industry Association noted its importance during the pandemic so the industry can avoid handling cash.

“Given the nearly quarter of a million people employed by the cannabis industry and the potential dangers associated with being essential service providers during this pandemic, it is vital that these workers not be forced to deal with additional risks created by cash-only transactions. We strongly urge the House to pass this legislation and hope the Senate will seriously consider the health and safety impacts caused by lack of access to banking,” an official said on Tuesday.

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