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Could marijuana dispensaries get access to banks later this year?

Because it's illegal at the federal level, banks often deny accounts to dispensaries
Thailand Marijuana
Posted at 3:18 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 17:22:04-04

All Joshua Chase wanted to do was have a smooth grand opening of his new cannabis dispensary — Oakanna — in Oakland, California. Instead, he got shot.

"They shot and hit me with a ricochet," Chase said.

"It went through the bottom of my foot," Chase added.

This happened more than six weeks ago and to some degree, he wasn't surprised by it.

"This is just what you sign up for being in the cannabis industry," Chase said.

"This is just what comes with the business when you don't have banking," he said.

What's this lack of banking that Chase is talking about? When a typical business receives cash, the owners can easily take the money to a nearby bank and deposit it.

That's not the case with marijuana dispensaries. Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, most federally-insured banks don't accept deposits from marijuana businesses.

That means many dispensaries have a lot of cash on hand until they can take it to a specialized institution. For the same legal reasons, most cannot accept credit cards either.

In Washington state, in January and February of this year, there were 50 armed robberies of dispensaries.

"If we would have a banking system that was open it would only make a safer for us, it would be more efficient for us," Chase said.

NOT A NEW DEBATE

This debate is not a new one. In fact, dispensary owners for years have been saying how a lack of banking access can create dangerous conditions for employees. After years of debate on this issue, it's possible Congress addresses it this summer, however.

The change could come from the "Safe Banking Act" which would allow dispensaries access to federally-insured banks in states where cannabis is legal.

Lawmakers are attempting to include it in the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which is meant to fund science, computer chips and more.

Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) spoke about including "safe banking" during the first conference committee of the Bipartisan Innovation Act last month.

"Change our banking laws so the cannabis industry isn't operating in the all-cash darkness," Hickenlooper told lawmakers.

The legislation just might be one of the last major bills Congress passes before the election.

More details on whether safe baking is included in the Bipartisan Innovation Act is expected to be revealed later this summer.