Another Senator Signs Onto Marijuana Banking Bill, Saying It Will ‘Take The Target Off The Backs’ Of Dispensaries Facing Robberies

A Democratic senator has announced that she’s joined the list of bipartisan cosponsors of a marijuana banking bill, stressing the need for the reform amid a spate of robberies targeting state-licensed cannabis businesses in her state.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) signed on as a cosponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act on Tuesday, becoming the 35th member of the chamber to add their name to the legislation in addition to its lead sponsor.

“Last year there were more than 50 robbery attempts at marijuana dispensaries in the State of Washington,” the senator said.

A report from StoptheDrugWar.org further found that nearly 100 Washington cannabis shops were impacted over a period of less than five months in 2021.

“This bill will take the target off the backs of our state’s dispensaries by updating federal banking laws so they don’t have to do all their business in cash,” Cantwell said.

The senator has also previously pushed for marijuana industry access to federal Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and services, as well as the elimination of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E that prevents cannabis businesses from taking standard federal tax deductions.

Congressional researchers also recently Congressional acknowledged in a report that the lack of banking access for state-legal marijuana businesses leads them to be “heavily reliant on cash transactions, making them a target for theft.”

The Senate Banking Committee passed the SAFER Banking Act to address the issue last September, but the measure is pending action on the floor. Earlier versions have cleared the House in some form at least seven times in recent sessions.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in late December that lawmakers will “hit the ground running” in 2024, aiming to build on bipartisan progress on several key issues, including marijuana banking reform—though he noted it “won’t be easy.”

If the SAFER Banking Act does make it to the Senate floor this year, it’s expected to be amended. For example, Schumer has discussed the “moral responsibility” of further amending it to add provisions on state-legal cannabis expungements and gun rights for cannabis consumers.

More recently, a key lawmaker involved in negotiations over the cannabis legislation signaled that they are close to reaching a deal after members splintered last year over Section 10 of the measure that deals broadly with banking regulations that aren’t specific to the marijuana industry.

Meanwhile, the original sponsor of the first cannabis banking reform bill, former Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), spoke with Marijuana Moment on Wednesday about his work with a national marijuana group lobbying on the legislation. He said he remains “hopeful” that there’s enough time and momentum to enact the measure this year.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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