A paper written by the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC) was published by the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law on Aug. 12. The paper, entitled “Not a SAFE Bet: Equitable Access to Cannabis Banking, An Analysis of the SAFE Banking Act,” analyzes the Safe and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE), and includes numerous recommendations for improvement.
Authors Cat Packer, Shaleen Title, Rafi Aliya Crockett, and Dasheeda Dawson state that the SAFE Banking Act isn’t enough in its current form. “But unfortunately, SAFE, as written, is unlikely to result in equitable access to financial services,” they wrote in the study abstract. “This paper summarizes the bill, analyzes why it would fall short of its purported goals, and makes recommendations to improve the bill.”
“SAFE would address only the legal and regulatory consequences potentially faced by financial institutions for providing services to the cannabis industry,” the authors wrote in their executive summary. “Without additional legislative amendments to directly address challenges related to fair and equitable access to financial services, small and minority-owned cannabis businesses that currently have inadequate access to banking services or loans are likely to continue to be denied the full breadth and depth of services offered to others.”
The authors compiled 10 recommendations that could help improve future reform of cannabis banking (check out the full explanation for each recommendation here.) In summary, these recommendations cover a thorough collection of topics of improvement, such as redirecting Internal Revenue Service code 280E funds, expanding requirements for anti-discrimination laws, identifying best practices for federal banking regulators, and much more.
The authors concluded that although a cannabis policy gap has developed, now is the time to address these concerns. “The continued criminalization of cannabis at the federal level, coupled with an increasing number of states authorizing medical or adult-use cannabis activity, has resulted in an ever-widening policy gap between federal and state cannabis laws,” the authors said. “However, due to cannabis’s widely accepted medical use, existing state and local efforts to authorize, license and regulate cannabis for medical and adult-use, and bipartisan support from the American public regarding cannabis legalization, many believe that it is no longer a matter of ‘if’ or ‘when’ this gap will be addressed, but ‘how’.”
Ultimately, the CRCC authors don’t recommend the SAFE Banking Act in its current form unless these topics are discussed. “As such, regardless of whether Congress decides to pass cannabis banking reform as a part of more comprehensive cannabis policy reform or as a standalone issue, Congress should ensure that any legislation related to cannabis banking reform includes explicit provisions that seek to ensure fair and equitable access to financial services for all in the cannabis industry. Until the SAFE Banking Act is amended to include such provisions it should not be considered a safe bet to achieve equity in cannabis banking.”
The release of this paper, along with these 10 recommendations, arrives nearly one month after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, and Sen. Cory Booker filed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in July. Reports predict that compromises could be made, with the possible release of a bill being referred to as “SAFE Banking Plus.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 17, the CRCC is holding a Cannabis Regulatory Deep Dive to discuss this analysis with all four author contributors, as well as Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, who will moderate the meeting. The event will be held via Zoom at 12 p.m. ET.