WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new poll has revealed a majority of American voters support allowing legal cannabis businesses to access banking services. The survey, conducted by Morning Consult for Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), found 65 percent of voters support modest cannabis reform, and most respondents feel banking access will promote social equity and improve public safety.
Among business owners, the lack of access to banking or investment capital was ranked as the top issue facing the U.S. cannabis industry overall according to a report by Whitney Economics. The report notes that barring access to “normal business tools” like bridge loans, real estate loans, construction loans, revolving credit and credit card processing places heavy financial burdens on cannabis operators and makes the industry less welcoming to minorities.
According to the report’s conclusions, “From a banking perspective, it is easier to operate as a normal business than a cannabis business and within the cannabis industry it is easier to be a larger operator than a smaller one.”
The ICBA poll found 55 percent of respondents believe providing banking access would empower minority-, women- and LGBT-owned businesses, and 60 percent viewed denying such access as a threat to public safety. The latter point addresses the unique risks of robberies and violent crime in such a cash-intensive industry.
“U.S. voters have made clear that current law inhibiting access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses has a negative impact on local communities,” said ICBA President Rebeca Romero Rainey. “With a supermajority of U.S. voters voicing support for allowing cannabis-related businesses access to the banking system, the Senate should act now on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation that the House has passed seven times.”
There have been several attempts at reform, including the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has passed the House multiple times but remains stalled in the Senate, and the Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act which was introduced to Congress in June. The passage of the SAFE Act in the House signifies some bipartisan support for this issue. The ICBA survey’s findings also illustrate this fact: 73 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans, and 67 percent of independents support the policy change.
The bill’s continued failure in the Senate despite repeated support in the House is largely a result of the debate between incremental versus comprehensive reform. Legislation that passes before comprehensive legalization has a limited scope, which is a point of reluctance for several senators who generally support providing the cannabis industry the same access to financial institutions as its more traditional counterparts.
As legalization is not expected to advance this Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is in high-level talks to put together a package of cannabis reforms that’s been called SAFE Banking Plus. The package is expected to contain banking protections along with other components, which may include legislation to expunge prior cannabis convictions and equity-centered amendments.