Legislation allowing banks to provide credit cards and checking accounts to legal cannabis businesses has been stalled in the Senate. But members of Congress are looking to add its provisions to the next coronavirus stimulus bill, NJ Cannabis Insider has learned.
The argument is that many patients who use legal marijuana are among the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, and forcing them to deal in cash also puts employees at risk.
“Everything has to be capable of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus and mitigating the economic harm of the pandemic,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The effort is taking place as supporters of ending the federal ban on marijuana seek to make legal cannabis businesses eligible for Small Business Administration loans.
The $2 trillion stimulus law included a $349 million paycheck protection program to encourage small businesses to retain their employees, but the cannabis businesses were excluded.
“We want to pass the SAFE Banking Act, but we also know SAFE Banking alone won’t be enough to give cannabis businesses the relief they need like other businesses,” said Rep. Earl Perlmutter, D-Colo.
“I plan to keep pushing to ensure the cannabis industry has the ability to be eligible for SBA relief funds during this COVID-19 crisis. I have spoken to House leadership about this matter and I’m hopeful in one of the next two packages we can get this done.”
Perlmutter, the chief sponsor of the banking bill, is pushing for its inclusion in the stimulus bill, according to another member of Congress speaking on condition of anonymity.
After all, asking the marijuana businesses eligible for the loans raises the question of how they would get the money, since most do not have bank accounts and an SBA official isn’t going to walk in the door with a paper bag of dollar bills.
“If we get SBA access but don’t get banking, how can SBA distribute money to someone who is unbanked?” Strekal said. “Are they going to get $10,000 cash?”
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