By Dalton Rosario

On February 13th the first congressional cannabis hearing will be held before the House Financial Services subcommittee and the Consumer Protection subcommittee to address the problems and solutions related to statewide cannabis businesses working with federal banking services. This is a contentious topic due to cannabis’ current status of federal prohibition even though states across the nation are moving forward with cannabis legalization. The clear problem is that despite legislation outlining policies for banks to follow when dealing with strictly cash-based cannabis proceeds, many banks opt out of the risk associated with handling accounts for cannabis businesses due to the complicated restrictions and gray-area legalities it falls within; and the corresponding penalties if there is a breach of policy that could close the down the bank entirely. 

As it stands for most banks the risk is not worth the reward. But can it be? That is what the 116th Congress seeks to prove next week. It is clear that criminalizing cannabis has failed the people as a federal policy. Reformations and restitutions are at the top of legislators’ list of amendments to pass into law by the end of 2019. These policy shifts require an infrastructure in place that provides transparency between banking institutions and home-grown businesses that benefit public safety by nullifying illicit drug markets. The most immediate method for doing so is by granting depository regulations for cash circulating large-scale cannabis operations, which will only intensify as more states open avenues for cannabis markets to lawfully partake in their state economy as a legitimate industry with all of the necessary licensing, taxation and regulations set in place. Even though the only permanent method is to address cannabis legalization on a national scale, ending federal prohibition and its residual counter-effects once and for all.