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Marijuana CEO on House passing first cannabis banking bill: It’s a 'big deal'

Zack Guzman
Senior Writer

Marijuana businesses looking for access to banking in the largely cash industry cheered a victory Wednesday, as the U.S. House of Representative voted to pass a bill that would allow banks to legally provide financial services to legitimate cannabis businesses.

The so-called Secure and Fair Enforcement, or SAFE Banking Act, overwhelmingly passed the House by a vote of 321 to 103, mostly led by Democrats joining their fellow party member from Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter who led the effort.

The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate for a much less certain future.

For the time being, however, industry advocates were quick to call any move to embrace marijuana at a national level a major win.

Kevin Murphy, CEO of the nation’s most widespread marijuana company in Acreage Holdings (ACRGF), told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM that the House passing the SAFE Banking Act was no doubt a “big day in history going forward with cannabis.”

“It’s a big deal because it’s the first meaningful step in recognizing the fastest growing industry in the United States,” he said. “It’s a legitimate business, it employs tens of thousands, and think about the hypocrisy we’ve lived with in this space — the IRS is willing to collect your taxes… but they’re not really willing to have banks bank the industry.”

The CEO of fellow multi-state cannabis company Curaleaf (CRLF), Joe Lusardi, echoed that sentiment late Wednesday.

“If ratified, the bill will increase the safety of our operations for our patients, customers and employees by reducing the reliance on cash and promoting transparency,” Lusardi said in a statement.

That said, not all marijuana progressives are necessarily in favor of the bill, which is limited in scope to only affect banking laws. Democratic presidential candidates that have made marijuana reform a large part of their platform, like Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, have advocated for legislation that would go further to also add in elements of criminal justice reform related to marijuana.

WHITE BOARDS: Despite the fact that marijuana usage rates among whites and non-whites in the U.S. are mostly similar, and the fact that communities of color face a higher number of marijuana arrests, a Yahoo Finance analysis shows the boards of the top marijuana companies are still disproportionately made up of white men.

A bill proposed by Harris and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler known as the MORE Act would not only legalize marijuana at a federal level, but also set aside tax revenue to establish an opportunity trust fund meant to assist socially disadvantaged business owners and minimize barriers to entry for minority cannabis entrepreneurs.

For now, however, cannabis businesses looking for financial services will take the victory.

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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