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House approves marijuana banking bill

Legislation would offer legal protections, improve safety in pot industry
The U.S. House passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act that would help clear the air around banking services involving marijuana businesses.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act this week to protect marijuana business from unfair banking practices, receiving praise from Colorado lawmakers.

The SAFE Banking Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., in March, was intended to keep communities safer by encouraging marijuana-related businesses to use traditional banking methods to track their sales transactions. This would protect those businesses from the robberies and other mishaps that would occur if they were only permitted to use cash. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., applauded the passage of the bill.

“The lack of access to banking services for marijuana businesses is a public safety issue in Colorado and across the country,” Bennet said in a news release. “This common-sense bill would allow our banking system to serve marijuana businesses the same way they serve any other legal places of business.”

Bennet, who is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the act, said he will continue efforts to move the bill forward in the Senate.

Tipton

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., voted for the bill in the House and said that the cash-only system of the cannabis industry placed a “significant risk” to the safety of communities.

“I voted in support of the SAFE Banking Act knowing that there was a need for financial regulatory framework to protect Colorado communities from theft and other crimes,” Tipton said. “While there will still be a need for a more rigorous review through our judicial systems in terms of federal decriminalization, I appreciated the opportunity to weigh in on this bill during the legislative process in the House.”

According to the text of the bill, the SAFE Banking Act would prohibit a federal banking regulator from:

Penalizing a bank for providing financial services to and collecting payments from a marijuana-related business.Recommending that a bank withhold services to a marijuana-related business.Taking adverse action on a loan made to a person solely because they are affiliated with the marijuana-related business.Kenneth Aab, employee at the Rocky Mountain High Dispensary in Durango, said that the passage of the bill would normalize the marijuana business.

“We are one of the only businesses in America that doesn’t have access to the banking system. Literally the only business in America,” Aab said.

The bill also helps ensure money spent in local communities stays in those communities, because marijuana shop owners won’t any longer have to travel great distances to find a bank willing to do business with them, Aab said.

“I can’t use a local bank in Durango,” Aab said. “I have to use a credit union up in Denver, so this bill gives more local ties and allows us to be more concrete members of society and the community.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., supported the act and said the Senate should move forward and deliver the act to the president.

“The conflicting federal and state marijuana laws make it difficult for legitimate businesses to use basic financial services, and this bipartisan legislation gets Washington out of the way and gives them the access they need to do business and pay taxes,” Gardner said in a news release.

Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.

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