Poll Suggests Lawmakers Should Act on SAFE This Year

Poll Suggests Lawmakers Should Act on SAFE This Year

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has been languishing in Congress for far too long. It has plenty of support in the House but not enough in the Senate. That may change, now that a recently conducted poll shows that the American public is very much in favor of freeing up banks to do business with companies in the cannabis sector.

Marijuana Moment reports that the poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Bankers Association. It did not specifically mention SAFE. Rather, it posed one broad question about cannabis business banking and another more specific question about whether Congress should act. It is clear that the majority of Americans think they should.

On the General Banking Question

The first question posed by the poll was whether companies in the cannabis space should have access to traditional banking services. Such services would include things like checking accounts and small business loans. It is important to note that the question was purposely framed to include only those states in which cannabis is already legal.

It turns out that 65% favor giving cannabis businesses access to banking. Only 15% said no, while the remaining 20% are apparently undecided. By any measure of politics, 65% qualifies as a mandate. The Senate would do well to pay attention.

On the Congressional Action Question

The second question in the poll asked whether Congress should take action to open the cannabis industry to traditional banking. The results were similar. Approximately 68% said they were in favor of federal legislation. Again, another mandate. Americans clearly want SAFE to pass despite the fact that the legislation wasn’t actually mentioned by pollsters.

What drives so many cannabis business owners crazy is that there really is no reason to hold off on passing the legislation. Willingly or not, the federal government has already chosen to turn a blind eye to legalized cannabis at the state level. If they are not going to enforce federal regulations in that respect, why continue holding on to banking restrictions? Get rid of the restrictions and free up businesses to contribute to the economy freely and without unnecessary financial burdens.

A Cash-and-Carry Business

Without passage of the SAFE Act, both dispensaries and medical cannabis pharmacies will have to continue operating as cash-and-carry businesses. This is less than ideal, explain the owners of Deseret Wellness in Park City, Utah. They say that having so much cash on hand is both inconvenient and dangerous. Like their counterparts throughout the country, Deseret Wellness owners would love to be able to make nightly bank deposits. They would also like to accept credit and debit cards.

Dispensaries and pharmacies are not alone. Growers have a hard time accessing traditional banking services, too. They struggle to get small business loans. Forget federal assistance programs aimed at helping the agricultural sector. And then there are cannabis processors. Their access to banking services is equally limited.

Banks Need Protection

Among other things, SAFE grants banks the protection they need to do business with cannabis operators – without the threat of being prosecuted for aiding and abetting illicit drug sales. To be honest, that is all banks are waiting for. They would be more than happy to offer services if they could do so without a looming legal threat.

Time will tell if SAFE ever makes it to the Senate floor for debate. Senators would do well to pay attention to the public mood on this topic. It is clear from polling data that voters want cannabis business is to have access to banking services.

Vincent Lalonde