Imagine you aren’t allowed to have a bank account or a credit card. Everything you buy has to be paid for with cash, including your rent, your power bill, your cell service, and your car payment. Whenever you get your paycheck, you have to cash it out and find someplace to keep it safe. If you get robbed, that’s it, you’re broke. That’s what it’s like for cannabis dispensaries right now. The cannabis banking provisions in the HEROES Act aims to end all of that.
Here in Oregon, weed possession and sale is legal, but cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I controlled substance according to the federal government. Federally-regulated financial institutions are penalized for doing business with cannabis retailers, which means weed stores can’t open bank accounts or apply for financial insurance. During the original COVID-19 relief, cannabis companies and companies doing business with cannabis companies were barred from receiving funds from the CARES like other business in need. For weed delivery companies, this is especially difficult since it means leaving the dispensary to deliver weed to consumers while carrying sometimes large amounts of cash.
You can imagine how difficult it is to run a business like that—and scary! There’s so much paperwork, between the paper forms and all of the records that are needed, that it takes up to fifteen minutes to process a single order to deliver weed, at least in Portland, Oregon. Working exclusively with cash is inherently dangerous too, making marijuana dispensaries a hot target for crime. Fortunately, there’s new legislation that might change this, and a lot of other things.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 includes a provision that would allow banks to serve legal marijuana businesses without fear of fine or penalty. That would mean dispensaries could store their money in banks, get insurance, and apply for federal assistance like federally-insured small business loans. Instead of relying on cash, weed shops could use credit and debit cards, increasing security for both their businesses and their customers. Sounds great, right?
The SAFE Act was already approved back in the fall of 2019 by the U.S. House of Representatives (yay!) but it has been stuck in a Senate subcommittee ever since (not yay!)—until now (oh good, yay again!). In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the House of Representatives passed a new $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which includes the SAFE Act! Cannabis businesses (cannabusinesses, for short) are essential businesses, and one thing the HEROES Act does is make them eligible for the same protections and benefits as other essential businesses. It also requires an Annual Diversity and Inclusion Report, to investigate what barriers minority-owned cannabis businesses face when entering the market and accessing financial services. If this report reveals systemic discrimination, it empowers the Comptroller General of the United States to recommend changes to Congress. As a Black Owned cannabis delivery service we think this is great.
What’s the end result? Weed stores become safer for everyone, cannabusinesses can protect their investments, and the playing field will be more level for everyone. Even better, revenue from legal weed dispensaries can finally enter the mainstream economy. The HEROES Act has a much better chance of being voted into law by the U.S. Senate to provide some much-needed economic coronavirus relief, but we promise to let you know as soon as anything changes.
If you like reading about marijuana law you will love our article on how cannabis delivery works in Portland, Oregon.