In an age where it seems like you can buy anything with the swipe of a credit card or the tap of a phone, the marijuana industry stands out. Thanks to federal banking rules, legal cannabis dispensaries are cash dependent, and they face steep or insurmountable hurdles when it comes to banking.
“It's an extremely challenging obstacle for us as a business or an industry, I guess, that does $30+ billion a year in regulated cannabis sales. … We can't take credit cards, for example. You know, debit card transactions are extremely difficult,” said Trent Woloveck, the chief strategy director of Jushi Holdings, Inc.
But there’s renewed hope that Congress might be changing that.
The SAFER Banking Act would allow cannabis businesses to bank like everyone else – giving them access to deposit accounts, insurance, investments and other financial services. The impact would reach employees too.
“For all of our employees, car loans, mortgages, all of those things, because they derive their income from cannabis, none of those things really exist for our employees,” said Woloveck.
But one of the biggest arguments for marijuana banking reform is safety.
“It's a major public safety issue. Because, you know, folks are targeted, our patients are targeted when they walk into our store, and our stores are targeted as well. We've had break-ins in Philadelphia most recently,” said Woloveck.
The SAFER Banking Act got bipartisan approval in the Senate Banking Committee in September. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to bring the bill to the Senate floor.
Woloveck believes getting approval in the Senate is the hard part. Previous versions of the marijuana banking bill have passed the House seven times. And if this bill gets to the president’s desk, he believes it will mark an important step forward for the cannabis industry, helping businesses in the 47 states where some kind of legal marijuana is available.
“The end goal of what we want to have, you know, people being able to consume and understand cannabis in whatever way they see fit ... safer passing is that first step of many different steps to bring that to fruition,” said Woloveck.
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