As more and more states are seeking to legalize recreational marijuana by 2016, access to banking services for legitimate cannabis businesses is becoming extremely important. The lack of banking access ratified under federal law is forcing many marijuana businesses to rely on cash to pay their huge taxes and licensing fees.
That is why the introduction of the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015 provides a welcome solution for financing cannabis businesses. Backed by a team of bipartisan supporters such as Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennett (D-CO), and Rand Paul (R0KY), the act would give state-compliant cannabis companies to access the banking system by protecting the latter against prosecution or asset forfeiture for providing their services to such businesses.
“Small, legal businesses should not be turned away from banking service because of fear of unjustified prosecution,” Murray said. “This legislation will ensure that they have access to the same services as other small businesses and can continue to grow and succeed.”
According to the bill, federal bank regulators would be limited with regard to:
- Prohibiting banks from providing financial services to legal businesses
- Terminating or limiting deposit insurances for providing services to legal cannabis businesses
- Providing incentives to banks that halt any service to these businesses
- Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a marijuana-related business
Banks will be asked to comply with current Financial Crimes Enforcement Network while guidelines are being streamlined. Their right to choose not to offer these services is also protected.
Legal marijuana groups are fully supportive of this idea. “Providing access to banking services for legitimate cannabis businesses should be a no-brainer,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “We’re grateful to Senator Merkley for bringing together colleagues from both sides of the aisle to support a commonsense solution to the crisis currently vexing businesses and public officials in the 23 states with some forms of legal marijuana.
“The bipartisan support should make it clear to Senate leadership that this is priority legislation that deserves to be moved on quickly and decisively.”
Should banks offer support to marijuana businesses? Voice your opinions in the comments section below – your opinion matters to the nation.