Among those facing the detrimental economic effects brought on by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is that of the marijuana industry. Since the beginning of medical and recreational cannabis legalization across the United States, the legal industry has dealt with restrictive regulation, negative stigma and a disconnect between state and federal governments.
Not the least of these obstacles has been the access to federal financial institutions. The lack of banking has led much of the marijuana industry to work with cash, leaving them vastly less secure. Written in the newly proposed coronavirus stimulus bill are provisions that would change that.
Democrats introduced the legislation last week. The $3 trillion bill, known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, is so far the biggest proposed economic stimulus package in U.S. history. The language in the bill that has piqued the attention of those in the state-legal cannabis industry is located from pages 1,066 to 1,091 of the 1,815-page document.
In that section, a plan lays out providing marijuana businesses operating in legal states with access to federal banking services, such as checking accounts, loans and credit, without fear of persecution from the federal government. Moreover, the bill would deem cannabis businesses eligible for benefits under the previously passed CARES Act, which provides economic assistance to small businesses. The verbiage more or less mirrors that of the SAFE Banking Act, which was passed by the House in 2019 with a wide margin of 321 yea to 103 nay votes.
Small business owners shouldn't be denied assistance for something as minor as marijuana possession!— Joyce Beatty (@RepBeatty) May 12, 2020
Happy to report #HEROESAct includes @RepJoeKennedy & my #BanTheBox language! https://t.co/LZlUSZhrX1
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) laughed the bill off, calling it a “seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities,” the House of Representatives approved the HEROES Act with a vote of 208 yea to 199 nay just before the weekend.
“The Heroes Act is a bold step to provide that support and ensure our nation meets the challenge of the pandemic and the ensuing economic recession,” said Appropriations Chairwoman and the bill’s main sponsor Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) on May 15.
Now that the House has done its part by writing, introducing, and passing the #HeroesAct, it's time for the Senate to step up.— House Appropriations (@AppropsDems) May 18, 2020
Support to pay state & local essential workers
Money for testing & tracing
Food security for families
Retweet if you agree! #DoYourJob
However, the bill faces many obstacles in the Senate. Although one Republican congressperson in the House voted in favor of the bill, the Democratically-written legislation is unlikely to pass without input from the Republican-led Senate.
Banking accessibility for the cannabis industry is “the cherry on top” of the “unserious product from an unserious House majority that has spent months dealing itself out of this crisis,” said Senator McConell in a press release.
According to McConnell, his opposition is founded at least partially in the literal amount of times the word “cannabis” is written in the bill as opposed to how often others are used.
“The word ‘cannabis’ appears in this bill 68 times. More times than the word ‘job’ and four times as many as the word ‘hire,’” said McConnell. “Maybe that’s just as well. Because when their proposal does try to treat the economic crisis, it proposes stifling, anti-work policies that would only make it harder for Americans to get their jobs back.”
“So maybe it’s best if House Democrats focus on cannabis studies and leave economics to the rest of us,” he added.