A Maine legislator has thrown his weight behind efforts to see banking and insurance made legal for the U.S. cannabis industry.
Republican Rep. John Andrews of Paris announced that he will introduce a resolution to the Maine legislature today calling upon it to push Congress on the issue. A copy of the resolution will also go to President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and each member of Maine’s delegation.
Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis and 30 have legalized medical marijuana. However, it remains fully illegal at a federal level, which prevents businesses in those states from gaining access to conventional banking methods.
That leaves them reliant on cash and susceptible to crime, while also making it difficult for the states to collect their fair share of tax revenue.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was introduced last year in an effort to solve some of these issues. It has 206 co-sponsors, but just 26 are Republicans, so it is interesting to hear that Andrews is pushing for banking to be allowed.
GOP Senator Roy Blunt has also publicly declared his backing of the SAFE Act this month, claiming that the reliance on cash causes a public safety risk.
The House approved the Act by a vote of 321-103 in September and it will now move onto the Senate. However, Mike Crapo, chairman of the Senate committee on banking, is opposed to marijuana legalization both federally and within his home state of Idaho, while he is also opposed to the SAFE Banking Act.
California Sen. Bob Hertzberg and State Treasurer Fiona Ma introduced a bill last year that would try to circumvent the issue by creating a special class of state-chartered banks to serve the cannabis industry. SB 51 would allow private banks or credit unions to provide depository services to licensed cannabis firms if they secure a limited-purpose state charter.
It was shelved until 2020 to allow the sponsors to “do it right”, according to Ma, but it should be reintroduced soon.
Andrews is proposing a federal measure that would serve the entire country. His state voted to approve recreational marijuana use all the way back in 2016, but it only began accepting applications for legal businesses last month.
State officials estimate the first adult use retailer in Maine will open in the spring. These businesses will be unable to bank their cash unless the law changes.
Andrews said this situation could hold back Maine businesses, and claimed that the federal government should respect state law.