Hit by robberies in California, Colorado, Washington and other states, the cannabis industry is pressing Congress to change federal banking laws so that its retailers do not have to carry and process large amounts of cash. Lacking the lobbying muscle of their adversaries, the industry hasn’t gained much traction on Capitol Hill, leaving cannabis business owners and their employees vulnerable to thefts and violent crime, McClatchy Newspapers reports. GOP lawmakers from pot-unfriendly states have sidelined legislation in the House and Senate that would allow marijuana businesses to conduct transactions with federally regulated banks, as well as state and community owned banks that are part of the Federal Reserve System.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it easier for federal prosecutors to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that had legalized the drug. The announcement caused stock prices for pot companies to plunge, and prompted many financial institutions to become even more wary of conducting business with marijuana enterprises. Michael Correia of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said there are strong law-and-order arguments for allowing marijuana businesses to bank like others do. They’d no longer need to conduct transactions in cash, including paying employees, could more easily pay their taxes and could separate themselves from the illicit marijuana market. Congress’ GOP leadership has shown no interest in even holding hearings on the SAFE Banking Act, legislation that would free banks to conduct business with state-approved marijuana growers and retailers. The stakes are considerable. Cannabis businesses generate about $8 billion in annual revenues, a figure that is projected to reach $24 billion by 2025, says New Frontier Data, a D.C.-based analytics company.