A majority of American voters support allowing banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses, according to a new poll. And most people believe it will both improve public safety and promote social equity.
The survey from Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), which was conducted by Morning Consult, found that 65 percent of voters back the modest cannabis reform, which would be achieved with the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act that’s passed the House in some form seven times but has continually stalled in the Senate.
There was majority support for banking reform across the political spectrum, with 73 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents backing the policy change.
Respondents also shared their perspectives on the practical implications of the legislation outside of safeguarding banks that service the industry. Seventy-one percent said that giving cannabis businesses access to the financial system would reduce the unique risks of robberies and violent crime targeting the cash-intensive market.
That includes 66 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of independents.
ICBA poll: 2/3 of voters support allowing cannabis-related businesses access to banking services in states where it is legal. With voters voicing support the Senate should act on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation previously passed by the House. ➡️ https://t.co/zFS10sy4cm
— Independent Community Bankers of America (@ICBA) September 6, 2022
More than four in five voters said that, in general, businesses that operate on a cash basis are at greater risk of experiencing robberies or theft.
Also, 55 percent said that they feel the reform could promote equity by empowering minority-, women- and LGBTQ-owned marijuana businesses that could benefit from improved banking access and financial services.
“U.S. voters have made clear that current law inhibiting access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses has a negative impact on local communities,” ICBA President Rebeca Romero Rainey said in a press release.
“With a supermajority of U.S. voters voicing support for allowing cannabis-related businesses access to the banking system, the Senate should act now on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation that the House has passed seven times,” she said.
The poll also found that just over 60 percent of respondents said that denying banking services to marijuana businesses poses a threat to public safety and that allowing such access would improve public safety.
Additionally, 58 percent of respondents agreed that establishing a safe harbor for cannabis banking would be “important,” according to the press release. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independents characterized the legislation as important.
ICBA did not provide the full polling results crosstabs in response to a request from Marijuana Moment. However, it did publish an infographic that provides some additional detail, including a partisan breakdown of the responses to some questions.
The poll involved interviews with 2,005 registered voters from August 6-7, with a +/- two percentage point margin of error.
The survey results from the financial services group, which has previously endorsed the SAFE Banking legislation, are consistent with the findings of a separate poll from the American Bankers Association (ABA) that was also conducted by Morning Consult and released in March. It also showed that 65 percent of Americans back the marijuana banking reform.
Meanwhile, the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently voted to adopt a revised policy directive that expresses support for federal marijuana descheduling and cannabis banking reform amid the state-level legalization movement.
While the House has repeatedly shown that there’s bipartisan support for the policy change, the bill has stalled in the Senate under both Republican and Democratic control. A key reason for the inaction on the measure as drafted is the ongoing debate over incremental versus comprehensive marijuana reform.
Top senators who generally support the idea of normalizing the marijuana industry by providing it with the same access to financial institutions that’s available to other traditional markets are still reluctant to bring something to the floor that’s limited in scope, particularly as it concerns equity.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have been among the most vocal in their calls for comprehensive legalization before enacting something that would principally benefit industry interests.
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Even so, the legalization bill that they filed in July after spending months soliciting bipartisan input is not expected to advance this Congress, as it’s all but certain that it would not meet the required 60-vote threshold to clear the Senate.
Recognizing that political reality, Schumer has been holding high level talks with bipartisan and bicameral offices about putting together a package of modest cannabis reforms that’s been dubbed “SAFE Banking Plus.” As the name implies, it’s expected to contain the marijuana banking protections, but with possible equity-centered amendments, as well as other components such as legislation to expunge prior cannabis convictions.
Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC) released a paper last month that outlined what they view as shortcomings of the standalone SAFE Banking Act and recommended several amendments to bolster its equity impact.
Booker said at an event organized by CRCC last month that the standalone legislation “requires changes” if it’s going to advance before cannabis is federally legalized.
The senator initially signaled that he was coming around to marijuana banking reform (contingent on equity provisions) at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing in July that he convened as chairman.
Meanwhile, the bicameral sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), laid out next steps for the cannabis banking reform at a briefing organized by the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) in July.
Also at that briefing, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said that he recently spoke with Booker about the pathway for marijuana reform this session, and they had a “great conversation” about finding areas of compromise.
“I think the senator is fully aware of the consequences of this failed policy of prohibition in terms of what it does with the SAFE Banking Act and the threat that is made to the very communities he wants to support,” the congressman said in response to a question from Marijuana Moment. “I think he’s trying to be able to thread the needle.”
Perlmutter also said in a recent interview that he feels the introduction of the Senate legalization bill alone means that lawmakers have overcome a legislative “hurdle” that’s kept SAFE Banking from advancing in the chamber.
See the INCBA infographic on the cannabis banking poll below: