Nearly two-thirds of U.S. voters support legislation to allow the banking industry to provide financial services to legal cannabis businesses, according to the results of a recent poll. The survey commissioned by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) also found that a strong majority believe that allowing cannabis companies to access financial services would reduce the risk of robbery and other crimes at marijuana businesses.
The survey, which was conducted by the polling firm Morning Consult on behalf of the ICBA, found that 65% of U.S. voters support allowing cannabis businesses to access banking services in states that have legalized marijuana. The ICBA said the results of the poll indicate broad bipartisan support for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a federal bill that would allow such access to financial services for cannabis companies. The legislation has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives seven times but has failed to gain the approval of the Senate.
“U.S. voters have made clear that current law inhibiting access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses has a negative impact on local communities,” ICBA president and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said in a statement from the industry group. “With a supermajority of U.S. voters voicing support for allowing cannabis-related businesses access to the banking system, the Senate should act now on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation that the House has passed seven times.”
The SAFE Banking Act would permit banks and other financial institutions to provide traditional business banking services to the legal cannabis industry. Under current regulations, providing such banking services including loans and payroll, checking and deposit accounts is tightly regulated by the federal government, resulting in few financial institutions agreeing to work with marijuana businesses. Critics note that the current policy forces cannabis companies to operate primarily in cash, leaving businesses vulnerable to robbery and other crime.
The SAFE Banking Act was first introduced in Congress in 2013 by Democratic Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado. Since then, the House of Representatives has passed the bill seven times as either a standalone bill or attached to other legislation, most recently as an add-on to a China competition bill that was later dropped from the legislation. Each time the cannabis banking bill or its provisions have been approved by the House, however, the legislation has failed to gain the approval of the Senate.
Voters Believe Cannabis Banking Bill Will Reduce Crime Risk
The ICBA poll also found that 71% of voters believe that allowing legal marijuana companies to access the banking system would help reduce the risk of robbery and assault at cannabis-related businesses, which the industry group said is an indication of the importance of cannabis banking access to public safety. A majority (55%) said that with some cannabis-related businesses owned and led by people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, providing financial services to the weed companies could help foster equity in the cannabis industry.
Sahar Ayinehsazian, a partner in the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg’s Los Angeles office and the co-chair of the practice’s Banking and Financial Services Access Group, agreed that public support for cannabis banking legislation suggests the issue is an important public safety issue for the electorate.
“It’s encouraging to see that 71% of voters support giving banking access to cannabis businesses – this is not only a business issue, but also a serious public safety matter. We are approaching a decade since the passage of Amendment 64, which ushered in the current model of the national cannabis industry,” Ayinehsazian wrote in an email to High Times. “During this decade, cannabis businesses have proven themselves to be beacons of compliance and safe and material cornerstones of their communities and economies.”
“Continuing to provide hurdles to banking access is, therefore, a harm to the community at large,” she added. “Such broad bipartisan public support is reflective of the positive impacts the cannabis industry has had nationally and should motivate the Senate to get cannabis banking done.”
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.