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The News Tribune, April 21, 2022

SAFE Banking Act is a matter of life and death for WA pot businesses


It’s an almost-nightly news story: another ‘pot shop robbery.’ More than 50 cannabis stores throughout Washington state have been victimized by robberies so far in 2022. That’s more than 50 robberies in less than three months — many of them by perpetrators with firearms and two of which resulted in people being killed.


Compare this to 2021 when there were about 35 cannabis store robberies total.


There are likely several reasons for the dramatic surge, though one reason is starkly obvious: cannabis businesses have limited financial services available to them and largely operate in cash.


Congress must take action immediately to pass the SAFE Banking Act which would, at long last, allow cannabis retailers to more easily use common cashless payment options such as credit and debit cards.


This policy is years overdue. Despite 19 states having legalized the recreational use of cannabis over the past decade, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. This means banks and financial institutions are put at legal risk if they provide banking services to cannabis businesses.


In Washington, we have already legalized cannabis and begun the work of expunging eligible convictions. But we cannot shield banks from the legal liability brought by congressional inaction.


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