The Michigan Chamber of Commerce said Thursday that a rash of recent break-ins at legal marijuana retailers in the state underscores the need for federal cannabis banking reform, which the group says would reduce the risks of theft and fraud that stem from the industry’s current reliance on cash.
The chamber joined the Michigan-based marijuana company Common Citizen in calling for congressional lawmakers to pass the Secure and Fare Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, which would remove the threat of penalties facing banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses, whose activity remains illegal under federal law.
“With nearly 40 states having legalized or decriminalized medical cannabis, adult-use cannabis or both, today’s cannabis landscape is hardly recognizable from just a few years ago,” Leah Robinson, director of legislative affairs and leadership programming for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “It’s time to pass the SAFER Banking Act without delay so cannabis business owners and workers can access the same banking, borrowing and lending options and protections as all other legal industries.”
The release cites recent media reports of a string of break-ins and attempted break-ins to cannabis retailers in Detroit as well as warrants issued by the attorney general last spring connected with more than 20 break-ins across the state.
Common Citizen CEO Michael Elias drew attention to the effects the break-ins have on investors and entrepreneurs.
“As a predominantly cash-only, $3 billion-plus industry in Michigan, entrepreneurs who invest millions and hire thousands of employees are particularly susceptible to theft,” Elias said. “As Michigan’s regulated cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve, entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis market deserve the peace of mind knowing their hard work and investment are protected, and that starts with passing the SAFER Banking Act.”
Elias and the chamber’s president and CEO, Jim Holcomb, recently wrote in an opinion piece in Bridge Michigan in support of the federal legislation, noting the ways in which obstacles to cannabis banking has impacted business owners.
“Despite plans to hire dozens of employees and support your community, you are denied typical construction loans and lines of credit from institutions that use federal products or are backed by the federal government—which is nearly all of them,” the pair wrote. “Or, imagine, you’ve got a job you enjoy in a growth sector striving to provide a middle-class life for your family. You decide to buy a house—only to be denied a mortgage.”
While some in Michigan’s cannabis industry are middle class, recent data from the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) show that the plurality of those who are applying for marijuana business licenses come from households making more than $200,000 per year.
The state’s cannabis market continued to grow in 2023, with legal retailers in Michigan selling more than $3 billion worth of marijuana products last year. Last month, stores sold more cannabis—nearly $280 million worth—than ever before.
At the end of 2023, there were 2,170 licensed cannabis businesses in the adult use market, most of which were growers, according to CRA data. The number also includes 751 licensed retailers, 250 processors, 46 marijuana event organizers, seven microbusinesses and two designated consumption establishments.
At the federal level, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said last month that lawmakers would “hit the ground running” in 2024, aiming to build on bipartisan progress on several key issues, including SAFER Banking. But he acknowledged the path to passage “won’t be easy.”
Elsewhere in Michigan’s legal cannabis landscape, a change approved last July by the state Civil Service Commission took effect in October to end pre-employment marijuana testing for most government employees. The shift also gave people who’ve already been penalized over positive THC tests an opportunity to have the sanction retroactively rescinded.
Also in October, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a pair of bills into law to allow state-licensed marijuana businesses to conduct trade with tribal cannabis entities. Both took effect immediately.
—Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—
A bill introduced in September, meanwhile, would legalize psychedelic plants and fungi so long as activities like cultivating and distributing the substances are done “without receiving money or other valuable consideration.”
That same month, Michigan lawmakers called on the U.S. Congress, Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prioritize research and investment in “non-technology treatment options”—including psychedelics—to treat psychological trauma from military service.
Last week a fifth Michigan city—Ypsilanti—unanimously approved a resolution to locally deprioritize enforcement of laws against psychedelic substances while expressing support for a statewide bill to legalize certain entheogenic plants and fungi.
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