Tallahassee, Florida. – Today, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Friedindependently elected member of the Florida Cabinet, calls on members of the Florida Congressional delegation serving on the America COMPETES Act conference committee to maintain the inclusion of the Safe and Fair Banking Act (SAFE) in the final version of the bill.
the Safe Banks Act protects financial institutions that provide banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses, which are now forced to operate in cash only, stifling growth and endangering public safety. This bipartisan bill has been passed six times by the U.S. House of Representatives, most recently as part of the House of Representatives version America COMPETES Act.
The letter reads in part: “The inability of cannabis businesses and their ancillary businesses to access financial services is one of many barriers caused by the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws. The federal government’s long and discriminatory cannabis ban undermines economic growth, creates unnecessary barriers to fair market participation, and raises significant public safety concerns.
The letter concludes:With the majority of states having legalized cannabis in one form or another and the reclassification of hemp as an agricultural product in the Farm Bill of 2018, our nation has long had to tear down the barriers created by federal cannabis prohibition. Regardless of your stance on federal legalization, we should all agree that Florida’s more than 700,000 medical marijuana cardholders deserve access to their drugs without fear of violence or the inconvenience of collecting large sums of money. I I lend my voice to calls from the financial industry, the cannabis industry, customers, elected officials and law enforcement to urge you to fight for the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act language in the final version. of the America COMPETES Act.
Commissioner Fried has made advocating for cannabis reform at the state and federal levels a top priority and has repeatedly highlighted how the conflict between federal and state cannabis laws negatively impacts the economy, businesses and patients of Florida medical marijuana. Commissioner Fried spoke out in favor of the Safe Banks Act in his testimony before the Florida Congressional delegation and the United States House Committee on Small Business, and was joined by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in sending a joint letter to congressional leaders in support of this important bill. More recently, the commissioner Fried filed a lawsuit over federal cannabis policies that violate the constitutional rights of medical marijuana patients in Florida.
The letter can be downloaded here
and seen here on Twitter, reads as follows:
May 12, 2022
Representatives Buchanan, Deutch, Demings, Soto and Waltz,
As Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, responsible for Florida consumer protection and the establishment and administration of the state’s hemp program, I write today: today regarding the urgent need for federal action to provide access to the financial system for the growing state. the legal cannabis industry. As you know, the United States House of Representatives passed the Safe and Fair Banking Act (SAFE) several times over the past few years, most recently as part of House’s version of the America COMPETES Act. As members of the COMPETES Act conference committee, I urge you to support the continued inclusion of Safe Banks Act language in the final version of the bill.
As you may know, the inability of cannabis businesses and their ancillary businesses to access financial services is one of many barriers caused by the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws. The federal government’s long and discriminatory cannabis ban undermines economic growth, creates unnecessary barriers to fair market participation, and raises significant public safety concerns.
Unfortunately, these public safety concerns have been confirmed time and time again. By limiting the cannabis industry and customers to a cash-based model, stores and customers are exposed to theft and violent crime. In April, there was already 80 cannabis store robberies in Washington state alone, with multiple thefts resulting in fatalities. In addition to the risks posed to businesses, there are additional public safety concerns for medical marijuana customers and patients who are forced to carry large sums of cash to purchase cannabis products.
Beyond the public safety concerns posed by the federal government forcing the legal cannabis industry to operate as cash-only businesses, without access to capital and loans provided by traditional financial institutions, countless entrepreneurs are being barred from ‘enter the market and existing businesses can not expand. Currently, 37 states, four territories and the District of Columbia have legal medical cannabis programs. In addition, 18 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use. In 2020, the legal cannabis industry generated $17.5 billion in sales and this number is only expected to increase. Letting such a large and profitable sector operate solely in cash stifles economic growth. We are leaving money on the table when we should be taking every opportunity to support our economy.
The impact of financial barriers to participation in this growing industry has resulted in economic growth and inequitable opportunities in the cannabis market, effectively limiting participation to those who can participate without the support of a financial institution. The federal government’s antiquated cannabis ban has resulted in the incarceration of countless people of color and created barriers preventing them from accessing jobs, housing and capital. The industry’s lack of access to banking services is currently compounding the harm by frustrating attempts by those who have been disproportionately harmed by the failure of the “War on Drugs” to participate in legal cannabis markets through the ‘State. This has created inequitable growth where wealthy white Americans benefit while communities of color cannot access the same opportunities. Additionally, it creates barriers for low-income patients who lack the resources to withdraw large sums of money whenever they need medication.
Beyond the impact of this lack of access to banking services on the legal medical and adult use industries, the federal government’s inconsistent approach to cannabis policies also impedes the growth of the legal hemp industry. at the federal level. Following federal hemp legalization in 2018, my department implemented the state’s first hemp program. In his First year Our hemp program alone has created an estimated $370 million in economic impact, supported more than 9,000 jobs, and generated more than $17 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue. There are currently over 700 active hemp cultivation licenses, over 900 cultivation sites, and a surplus of 19,000 approved acres in 64 of Florida’s 67 counties. While Florida hemp growers and manufacturers are honest businesses, they often face the same obstacles when it comes to accessing the financial services needed to thrive. Without congressional action, continued federal cannabis policies could discourage some financial institutions from partnering with farmers and businesses in this new industry.
With the majority of states having legalized cannabis in one form or another and the reclassification of hemp as an agricultural product in the Farm Bill of 2018, our nation has long had to tear down the barriers created by federal cannabis prohibition. Regardless of your stance on federal legalization, we should all agree that Florida is more than 700,000 medical marijuana cardholders deserves to have access to his medication without fear of violence or the inconvenience of raising large sums of money. I lend my voice to calls from the financial industry, the cannabis industry, customers, elected officials and law enforcement to urge you to fight for the inclusion of Safe Banks Act language in the final version of America COMPETES Act.
Nicole “Niki” Fried
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services