It’s been a year to remember for the US cannabis industry.
Newly approved medicinal and adult-use programs, record-shattering figures, and progressive policies rooted in social equity and criminal justice reform have all littered cannabis-related headlines. But, one of the most anticipated headlines of the year has yet to be written.
US SAFE Banking ACT – history is made
September marked a historic achievement for the US cannabis industry. For the first time ever, a federal cannabis-reform bill was approved in the US House, known as the US SAFE Banking Act.
The SAFE Banking Act has one main purpose – to increase public access to financial services to cannabis-related businesses and ancillary businesses. To this day, a high percentage of cannabis-related businesses (operating in fully-legal markets) are regularly using and dealing with cash, which creates extreme financial headaches.
“Over the course of a month, we probably have $2-4 million in cash that’s in some state of transit,” revealed a cannabis CFO in a recent interview with NPR.
But the cash-heavy operations don’t just create financial headaches for CFO’s pouring over balance sheets. It also negatively impacts small-businesses, and the groups of Americans that many cannabis programs have been purposefully built to uplift.
“African Americans have access to far less wealth than their white counterparts. As a result, it has been difficult for black entrepreneurs to enter into the cannabis industry, which has relied on private equity to seed business opportunity. Opening banking services to the cannabis industry helps not only existing companies, but also minorities seeking access to that industry, ” wrote Ex. Director of MPP Steve Hawkins in a op-ed.
What’s the holdup
It was a two-party effort in September’s sweeping approval of the US Safe Banking Act, but the bipartisanship unfortunately hasn’t extended to the Senate.
In July, when hearings originally began on the financial cannabis-reform bill, Republican Senate members didn’t even bother to attend multiple hearings – signaling a clear uphill battle from the start.
Since then, little has changed, and with leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell showing no-signs of endorsement, it’s difficult to imagine a pathway to approval.
But just because a path to approval is difficult to imagine, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, since September’s approval, political analysts have deemed the chances of approval have significantly risen from 20% to 30%.
With democrats still working around-the-clock, and rumors of potential concessions being made, this bill is far from being pronounced dead.
No matter the outcome, positive impacts are already being felt
In the business and financial world, morale victories mean little-to-nothing. Operators need results, not something to ‘hang their hat on’. But, the positive impacts of a federal cannabis-reform bill receiving national attention are undeniable.
Let’s take a look at the 2020 presidential election for example. Not only does every democratic candidate endorse cannabis, but they also each include their own neatly-detailed regulatory policies, a much-welcomed sign of progression in comparison to 2016’s campaign, which mostly featured candidates saying they support legalization, not defining how we’ll achieve it. From Bernie’s no-tobacco-companies welcomed policies, to Booker’s focus on revitalizing communities most impacted by the War on Drugs, the influence a national cannabis-reform bill has had on our leading politicians cannot be overstated.
The national attention didn’t just impact the politicians, but also the lobbyists and PAC’s that fund their campaigns. While a whole quarter still remains, the cannabis industry has already exceeded its political lobbying total from last year – generating a total of $3.77 million dollars.
Normalizing cannabis, one year at a time
You can’t erase decades of propaganda and misinformation overnight. But, with September’s historic approval, combined with an increase of national attention and political normalcy, the cannabis industry is slowly gaining enough momentum that could one day push us towards lasting federal reform.