At the moment this post was written, hopes for passing the SAFE Act do not look good. There are still a few days left in the 2022 legislative session, so anything could change. But let us assume it remains stalled. The Senate will have passed up yet another chance to help the state-legal cannabis industry.
No matter how you feel about legalized cannabis, this is one piece of legislation that needs to become law at some point. Continually failing to deliver does a disservice to marijuana business owners, their customers, and the industry as a whole.
For the record, the SAFE Act codifies the ability of banks and credit unions to offer financial services to marijuana businesses without fear of federal prosecution or interference. Here are the top three reasons it needs to become law, sooner rather than later:
1. Business Owners Are Being Victimized
At the top of the list is the fact that marijuana business owners are being victimized by violent criminals. Robberies of retail marijuana dispensaries have soared in recent years. Why? Because criminals are smart enough to know that your typical marijuana dispensary has a ton of cash on hand.
According to Fox News, Washington state reported at least 85 armed robberies of marijuana dispensaries in 2022. Many of those robberies turned violent. In at least one case, an employee was killed.
Robberies occur in states with both recreational and medical cannabis. Even in a conservative state like Utah, where violent crime isn’t as commonplace, marijuana dispensaries like the Beehive Farmacy in Brigham City need to remain vigilant. When you are dealing mainly with cash, the risk is ever present.
2. The World Is Largely Cashless
Protecting human lives is the number one reason for passing the SAFE Act. However, there are some common-sense reasons to add to the list. For example, the world is largely cashless in the 2020s. Nearly everything we purchase can be bought with a credit or debit card. How many people actually carry cash anymore?
To expect marijuana business owners to transact mainly with cash when the rest of society is mostly cashless doesn’t make sense. It is counterintuitive. It only makes it harder to run one’s business in a competitive way.
As a side note, it is not just credit and debit card transactions marijuana businesses are missing out on. They cannot get access to all sorts of business banking services, including small business loans. This puts them at a decided disadvantage.
3. Consistency and Integrity Demand It
Finally, the SAFE Act needs to become law for the sake of consistency and integrity. As things currently stand, Washington wants it both ways. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. It’s time for that end.
If federal regulators are willing to turn a blind eye to state-legal marijuana growing, processing, and retail sales, they also need to take the shackles off the banking industry. Continuing to hold the banking industry hostage through fear of prosecution is to be inconsistent. It is also to compromise on right and wrong.
Turning a blind eye to state-legal marijuana is supposedly the right thing to do. Well, so is giving banks and credit unions the ability to freely do business with marijuana dispensaries and growing operations. Right is right.
Things don’t look good for the SAFE Act in 2022. It might not get any traction in 2023, either. At some point though, it needs to become law. Otherwise, Washington lawmakers will continue to blame each other while marijuana business owners and their customers are left to fend for themselves in a cash-only environment.