This Wednesday, November 20, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). The bill’s sponsors and advocates for cannabis normalization say the legislation is the most comprehensive ever considered by Congress. In fact, due to the bill’s sprawling reforms, it was referred to eight separate committees for consideration according to their discrete jurisdictions. The Judiciary Committee will be the first to consider the bill and the Committee members will have opportunities to amend it.
First introduced in 2013, the SAFE Banking Act just passed the House 321-103. This bill, an exciting and promising development for cannabis advocates, provides safe harbor to banks and financial institutions doing business with state-legal cannabis businesses, and allows cannabis businesses to move away from conducting business exclusively in cash.
Cannabis legalization receives widespread popular support. According to opinion polls, more than two-thirds of Americans support full legalization—a steep rise in support considering that as recently as 2005, almost two-thirds of Americans opposed legalization. The country appears on the path to full cannabis legalization, but until that time, citizens and companies should be aware of the legal risks involved in entering the cannabis space.
Originally published in The New Brewer, July/August 2019.
Federal statutes create risk for banks that want to operate in the cannabis space. Banks face the threat of civil actions, asset forfeiture, reputational risk, and even criminal penalties if they do business with customers in the cannabis industry. Further, because most banks will not touch cannabis money, the growers, processors, and retailers in the industry must often operate on a cash-only basis. The Internal Revenue Service has even had to build “cash rooms” to accommodate taxes paid by legal cannabis companies.