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Whitmer asks for national marijuana banking rule

High-end marijuana buds on sale at a Denver dispensary.
Craig F. Walker
Denver Post via Getty Images
The letter to congressional leaders says marijuana businesses are struggling to get credit. They’re mostly cash businesses, which can make them a target for criminals.

A measure to help marijuana businesses with access to banking services has passed the US House multiple times, but has stalled in the Senate. Most recently, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Amendment was added to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that’s awaiting adoption by Congress.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and 22 other governors have asked Congress to pass a law that would allow marijuana businesses access to banking and lending services. The mayor of Washington DC also signed the letter sent today to congressional leaders. They say marijuana’s status as an illegal substance at the federal level creates a lot of problems in states where it’s been legalized.

From the letter:

Thirty-seven states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have passed some form of recreational or medical cannabis legalization measures. Medical and recreational cannabis sales in the U.S. were estimated to total $17.5 billion last year, but because of antiquated federal banking regulations, almost all cannabis transactions are cash-based. Not only are cash-only businesses targets for crime, cannabis businesses are further disadvantaged compared to other legal businesses by being unable to open bank accounts or obtain loans at reasonable rates. The cannabis industry is legal in some form in the majority of U.S. states and it is too large of a market to be prohibited from banking opportunities.

Andrew Brisbo is the executive director of Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency. He told Michigan Public Radio that marijuana’s status as an illegal substance at the federal level creates a lot of problems in states like Michigan, where voters in 2018 legalized it for recreational use. He said that also means the state has a responsibility to help the industry succeed and grow.

“You know, we have a high degree of oversight of cannabis businesses in the state of Michigan,” he said, “and when we’re looking at auditing records to ensure compliance, cash-related transactions are much harder to trace and track than those that are conducted electronically, and that’s just the way that business operates these days.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.