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State Treasurers Ramp Up Push For SAFE Banking Act

After the House of Representatives passed SAFE Banking Act again two months ago, there are increasing calls for the U.S. Senate’s to take up legislation that would allow financial institutions and cannabis-related businesses to receive services. 

The latest round of lobbying came last week from a pair of state treasurers: Colorado’s Dave Young and Washington’s Mike Pellicciotti.

Two Democratic officials used Twitter to raise alarm about the potential dangers to marijuana dispensaries if reform is not implemented. 

A spate of bank robberies at Washington’s cannabis shops has highlighted how fragile these establishments can be due to their cash reserves. 

“Colorado weed stores, along with other states with legal cannabis businesses, are headed into their busiest week of the year,” Young tweeted, alluding to this week’s 4/20 festivities, “yet these businesses must dangerously operate in a cash-based world. Let’s pass the #SAFEBankingAct this #fourtwenty.”

Pellicciotti’s official account, meanwhile, shared a news story from last week detailing an armed robbery of a cannabis shop that ended in a chase with Washington State Patrol.

“Another alarming example of why #Congress needs to pass the #SAFEBankingACT and allow access banking for a safer #cannabis retail industry,” the tweet from Pellicciotti’s account said.

Pellicciotti went to Washington, D.C. last month to meet with members of his state’s Congressional delegation, and to convey the urgency surrounding the bill. 

This month the Seattle TimesThe state reported nearly 70 armed robberies at cannabis shops this year. That’s almost double what happened in 2020 and last year. 

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

”You can’t have a $1.4 billion a year transaction taking place in the state of Washington in cash and not have the risk of these type of robberies … It’s time,” added Pellicciotti.

Pellicciotti wasn’t the only one promoting the bill on Capitol Hill. The Hill reported that there was “an in-person lobbying blitz” last month involving “more than 20 chief executives of top cannabis companies [who] urged lawmakers in both parties to pass the SAFE Banking Act.” 

In February the House of Representatives adopted the SAFE Banking Act. 

If that sounds familiar, it’s because the House also passed the bill last year. 

In fact, February’s passage marked the sixth time that the SAFE Banking Act won approval in the House since it was originally introduced in 2013 by Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter.

“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 following the latest passage.

There are six months left before the midterm elections and Democrats must get federal cannabis reform through the Senate. 

The SAFE Banking Act was approved by the Democratic-led House at the start of the month. This bill would have ended the federal ban on cannabis. 

The Democratic leadership in the Senate intends to introduce its own version of a legalization bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, but that legislation likely won’t be unveiled until sometime this summer.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate’s legalization bill will be introduced ahead of the Congressional recess in August. Schumer previously stated that the bill would be presented by the end this month.