New COVID-19 relief package would allow cannabiz banking and insurance

Gabrielle Saulsbery//May 13, 2020//

New COVID-19 relief package would allow cannabiz banking and insurance

Gabrielle Saulsbery//May 13, 2020//

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Banking access for legal cannabis businesses was included in a new federal stimulus bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Language from the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, passed in the House in September and currently in limbo in the U.S. Senate, was incorporated into the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act.

The banking section of the legislation would “allow cannabis-related legitimate businesses, that in many states have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic as essential services, along with their service providers, to access banking services and products, as well as insurance,” according to a summary.

Cannabis businesses have struggled to bank their dollars in New Jersey and elsewhere while marijuana remains a federally scheduled drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Upon learning that language from the SAFE Banking Act was included in the second COVID-19 federal relief package on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., tweeted that he had “been pushing for this because the #COVID19 crisis has only exacerbated the risk posed to cannabis businesses & their employees & they need relief just like any other legitimate business.”

Perlmutter is the chief House sponsor of the banking legislation.

Charles X. Gormally, director of litigation at Brach Eichler.

“No business, let alone one that is deemed essential to the public’s well-being should be deprived of access to the benefits of our banking system,” said Charles Gormally, who co-chairs Brach Eichler LLC‘s cannabis law practice out of Roseland. “The growth and development of a regulated adult use cannabis marketplace is dependent upon access to ready and stable credit, a fulsome banking relationship to foster deposits, payroll and vendor management, and accountability to taxing authorities and regulators.

“Both sides of the political discourse should be encouraged by this development and join together to make banking access to this burgeoning business possible,” Gormally said.

New Jersey’s alternative treatment centers were deemed essential early on in the COVID-19 pandemic while many other businesses were forced to close.

The HEROES Act, however, did not make cannabis businesses eligible for Small Business Administration loans. The SBA prohibits PPP eligibility for businesses engaged in anything illegal by federal, state or local law.