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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Advance Their Own Cannabis Banking Bill |

Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to provide cannabis business access to financial institutions that have been blocked in Congress. 

A committee in the state Senate on Wednesday approved bipartisan legislation to “afford state-legal cannabis better access to banking and insurance services,” according to local television station WHTM. It would address the major problem with legal cannabis, which is the inaccessibility to reliable banking resources. 

Per the station, the bill “authorizes but does not require financial institutions to provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses,” while also permitting “Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis industry the ability to take out ordinary business expenses when filing state taxes.”

According to Local 21 News, the “bill puts safeguards in place so banks and insurers can do business with the medical cannabis industry without fear of penalty.”

Two state senators, Republican John DiSanto (Democrat) and Sharif Street (Democrat), wrote the bill. The State Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved it.

“Access to financial and insurance services is essential for operating any business, and it is against the public interest to relegate a multi-billion-dollar industry to deal in piles of cash,” DiSanto said, as quoted by WHTM. “Banking this cash safely in Pennsylvania provides certainty for businesses, is a huge opportunity to grow our economy and should ultimately lower costs for medical cannabis consumers.”

“This is a huge step in the right direction making it easier for banks to do something because right now, most banks are scared to do anything,” said Street, as quoted by Local 21 News. “The law is set up in a way where we are treating these folks like they are involved in illegal drug trafficking.”

This bill is an attempt to reform cannabis policy at the state level, an area where Congress has failed. The bill could provide more resources to local companies for basic financing. 

The SAFE Banking Act would have allowed banks to lend financial assistance to marijuana businesses. The legislation was passed by the House for the sixth time. It was originally introduced by Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democratic Congressman. 

“Cannabis-related businesses—big and small—and their employees are in desperate need of access to the banking system and access to capital in order to operate in an efficient, safe manner and compete in the growing global cannabis marketplace,” Perlmutter said in a statement at the time.

Street indicated that he was confident that the bill would be passed in both the Senate and state House. And there is cautious optimism among advocates that the SAFE Banking Act will finally clear both houses of the Democratic-controlled Congress this year. 

The urgency is increasing to make a difference. The dangers of having too many cash has been highlighted in Washington State by a string of armed robberies that took place at dispensaries selling cannabis. 

The Seattle Times reported earlier this month that “there have been around 67 armed robberies so far in 2022,” up from 34 in 2021 and 27 in 2020.

Officials in Washington have taken action to address this worrying trend when it comes banking access.  

Washington’s Republican Senator introduced last month a bill that would increase the sentence of anyone who is convicted for robbing a marijuana store. 

Also, earlier in the month, Mike Pellicciotti, state treasurer, traveled to Washington, D.C., to push for passage of the SAFE Banking Act.

“You rob the places where the cash is,” Pellicciotti said, as quoted by local television station KING5. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”