YAKIMA, Wash. - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would allow legal marijuana businesses access to loans, lines of credit and other banking services, while keeping financial institutions from prosecution for dealing with cannabis-related money. It still needs to pass in the Senate, but one local marijuana dispensary owner said this move is at least a step in the right direction, and helps legitimize the industry.
The SAFE Banking Act passed the House with almost unanimous support from the Democrats and nearly half of Republicans.
Liz Hallock owns Sweet Relief Cannabis Express in Yakima, and is running for City Council. She said she already has access to banking in Washington for her business. However, if the bill passes in the Senate, it would mean she finally has access to a bank account for her campaign. Her main source of income is from her marijuana business, so banks won't let her open an account.
"So no bank will give me a campaign account to take donations," said Hallock. "The fact that banks will not give anyone associated with legal marijuana businesses bank accounts excludes people who are interested in ending the war on drugs from running for public office."
If the bill passes, Hallock said it will allow for more equity in the industry. The Government Accountability Office would make sure that there is credit available for women and minorities.
"So hopefully this bill will pass the Senate and then credit unions like the one we use won't be punished for working with women and minority business owners, and that's been really the inequity of this industry is that at the beginning, no one had access to credit," said Hallock.
Without access to credit, only businesses with investors and a lot of capital can break into the industry.
"I only hope that it will open up credit to more people and then more people can be a part of the industry," said Hallock.
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