California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined 37 of his counterparts to urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow cannabis companies to access federally insured banks.
Though California is one of more than 30 states to have legalized marijuana in some capacity, many banks are reluctant to do business with growers and retailers because marijuana remains on the federal government’s list for most restricted narcotics.
“This is simple: Not incorporating an $8.3 billion industry into our banking system is hurting our public safety and economy,” Becerra said in a statement announcing his participation in a coalition demanding the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act.
Democratic California was joined by attorneys general from Republican strongholds including Utah, North Dakota and Kentucky, as well as 34 other states and the District of Colombia.
Cannabis growers and retailers who are unable to utilize banks are forced to rely on cash transactions, which can make those businesses a potential target for robbery and even something as simple as paying taxes can be risky.
While a polarized Congress means federal action on legalized cannabis banking is unlikely to proceed any time soon, California lawmakers are considering a bill that would authorize banks and credit unions in the state to create special accounts for cannabis businesses that would allow them to pay taxes, fees and rent, as well as for vendor services.
That bill, Senate Bill 51, was approved by the Senate Committee on Government and Finance and will be taken up by the Committee on Appropriations on Monday.
In the meantime, California has created a network of offices around the state where marijuana growers and retailers can pay tax in cash if they do not have access to financial institutions.