The United States Senate Appropriations Committee recently voted to grant the marijuana industry access to the banking system.
It remains unclear if the banking issue will be resolved soon as a similar bill failed to reach a floor debate in the Senate last year.
“We’ve seen this all before,” Jeff Foster, a co-founder of JANE, a payment-processing firm for marijuana retailers, told Business Insider. “I hope that some progress is being made. But certainly what happened yesterday [the Senate’s vote] was by no means a watershed moment.”
The subject is very important for the cannabis industry, especially dispensaries. Canna businesses are often faced with the difficult situation of keeping cash and cannabis in the same location, thereby making them a potential target for criminals. Additionally, employees are almost always paid in cash and municipalities are losing income tax revenues. Credit card transactions are also unable to be processed due to lack of banking in the industry.
“Whether you are for or against legalization, you have to recognize that having marijuana businesses handling huge amounts of cash with nowhere to deposit the money is a public safety concern that Congress has to tackle,” says Michael Collins, the deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.
Although President Obama and the Treasury Department announced they would not prosecute banks that decided to deal with cannabis businesses in compliance with state law, banks seem too skittish to get involved.
“Banks still regulate themselves,” said Jeff Foster. “And the resistance to marijuana is mostly based on reputational risk. There’s still a great stigma in the banking community around marijuana. It’s palpable.”
Although cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, it seems clear that that it will continue to grow on a state level. There are going to be up to 12 states that will have residents voting on reforming marijuana laws.
Many feel the banking situation is one of the largest issues preventing the cannabis industry from normalization.