Last month, congressional leaders eliminated cannabis banking provisions that had been attached to a large-scale defense bill by the House. Supporters of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in its current form were upset, with many insisting that SAFE would close the gap between the predominantly white-owned multistate operators (MSOs) and small minority entrepreneurs who lack access to private equity. They also argue that it would help prevent robberies of small cannabis businesses. However, the language of the bill as currently drafted paints a different reality and stands to give more power to MSOs with little evidence it will deter crime. The good news is that with a new year and new congressional session, we can work together to push for a fresh start in Congress that makes the bill more equitable, enhances safety, and positions disadvantaged small businesses to truly benefit from expanded banking services. As a Black woman and chair of Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, it’s important to me that we get this right and truly help historically excluded business owners not just in theory, but in reality. On the surface, it would seem that creating access to commercial lending, as SAFE promises to do, would benefit emerging Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-owned businesses. After all, many have little-to-no access to private equity funding while MSOs are generally well-positioned to obtain capital. The rationale is that equity-designated businesses would gain access to funding under SAFE, serving to help level the playing field. But this superficial analysis does not examine the position banks are most likely to adopt, and whether banking rules will actually enable disadvantaged businesses to successfully compete alongside MSOs. Under SAFE, marijuana would remain a Schedule I substance. The bill does not change the existing laws, instead of creating a “safe harbor” for banks willing to work with marijuana businesses, despite the latter operating in clear violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Marijuana Moment, Marijuana Moment, 01/05/2022 09:22:00

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