Passage of SAFE Banking Act to serve as milestone in U.S. legalization of cannabis

A Brightfield Group report says road to legal cannabis will be “long and winding”.

Federal legalization of cannabis is expected to be an incremental process. traffic_analyzer/Getty Images

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A new report says the road to national legalization of cannabis in the U.S. won’t be an easy one.

“Despite the hype, federal cannabis legalization will likely be an incremental process that starts with decriminalization,” says the paper prepared by the Brightfield Group.

The Chicago-based consulting company pointed to one marker of progress in this field.

“The road to nationally legal cannabis will be long and winding, and the next major milestone will likely be the passage of the SAFE Banking Act,” the Brightfield Group report stated.

The report was referring to the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021.

The landmark legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on April 19 this year.

Numbered as H.R. 1996, the bill was authored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-07). It was sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), and Warren Davidson (R-OH-08), and cosponsored by 180 members.

A media release issued by Perlmutter explained that the bill would “allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system”.

The release noted that 47 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, which represent 97.7 percent of the U.S. population, have “legalized some form of recreational or medical marijuana, including CBD”.

“Yet current law restricts legitimate licensed marijuana businesses from accessing banking services and products, such as depository and checking accounts, resulting in businesses operating in all cash,” the release noted.

The release stated that this situation presents a “serious public safety risk for communities, inviting theft, robberies, and burglaries”.

“I feel optimistic about the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act and, more broadly, reforms to our federal cannabis laws,” Perlmutter said.

The release explained that SAFE Banking Act provides “protections from money laundering laws for any proceeds derived from these state-legal marijuana businesses”.

“This will get cash off the streets and into the financial system which is built to root out fraud and illicit activity,” the release noted.

The same release stated that the U.S. cannabis industry “continues to grow at a rapid rate, with the current value estimated at $17.7 billion, a substantial amount of which remains unbanked”.

“As of January 2021, the legal cannabis industry supports 321,000 jobs across the country,” it noted.

The release also recalled that a counterpart bill has been introduced in the Senate.

The Brightfield Group’s new report is titled “Legalization & Consumer Trends in US Cannabis”.

The report noted that cannabis is “no longer a strictly partisan issue” as Republican and Democratic voters favour legalization.

“National legalization won’t be as easy as state legalization, which is already a messy process,” the Brightfield Group noted.

One thing is clear: the American people are “ready whenever the federal government is”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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