Commissioner Nikki Fried Calls on Florida Congressional Members to Keep Cannabis Banking Provisions in America COMPETES Act / 2022 Press Releases / Press Releases / News & Events / Home

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Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Friedan independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, is calling on the Florida congressional delegation members serving on the America COMPETES Act conference committee to maintain inclusion of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the final version of the bill.

The SAFE Banking Act protects financial institutions that provide banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses, which are now forced to operate as cash-only operations, stifling growth and risking public safety. This bipartisan bill has passed the US House of Representatives six times, most recently as part of the House version of the America COMPETES Act.

The letter reads in part: “The inability of cannabis businesses and their ancillary business to access financial services is one of many barriers caused by the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws. The federal government’s lengthy and discriminatory cannabis prohibition undermines economic growth, creates unnecessary barriers to equitable market participation, and causes significant public safety concerns.”

The letter concludes: “With the majority of states having legalized cannabis in some form, and the reclassification of hemp as an agricultural commodity in the 2018 Farm Bill, our nation is long past due in tearing down the barriers created by federal cannabis prohibition. Regardless of your position on federal legalization, we should all agree that Florida’s more than 700,000 medical marijuana cardholders deserve to access their medicine without fear of violence or the inconvenience of gathering large sums of cash. I am lending my voice to the calls from the financial industry, the cannabis industry, customers, elected officials, and law enforcement in urging 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 Florida’s economy, businesses, and medical marijuana patients. Commissioner Fried has spoken in support of the SAFE Banking Act in testimony before the Florida Congressional Delegation and the US House Committee on Small Business, and was joined by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in sending a joint letter to congressional leadership in support of this important bill. Most recently, Commissioner Fried filed a lawsuit over federal cannabis policies that infringe on Florida medical marijuana patients’ constitutional rights.

The letter, which may be downloaded here


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and viewed 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, entrusted with the protection of Florida’s consumers and the establishment and management of the state’s hemp program, I am writing today regarding the urgent need for federal action to provide access to the financial system for the growing state- legal cannabis industry. As you know, the US House of Representatives has passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act several times over the past few years, most recently as part of House-passed version of the America COMPETES Act. As members of the COMPETES Act conference committee, I urge you to support maintaining the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act language in the final version of the bill.

As you may know, the inability of cannabis businesses and their ancillary business to access financial services is one of many barriers caused by the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws. The federal government’s lengthy and discriminatory cannabis prohibition undermines economic growth, creates unnecessary barriers to equitable market participation, and causes significant public safety concerns.

Unfortunately, these public safety concerns have been validated time and time again. By restricting the cannabis industry and customers to a cash-based model, stores and customers are left vulnerable to theft and violent crimes. As of April, there have already been 80 cannabis store robberies in Washington state alone, with multiple robberies resulting in fatalities. On top of the risks posed to businesses, there are additional public safety concerns for customers and medical marijuana patients who are forced to carry large amounts of cash to purchase cannabis products.

Beyond the public safety issues posed by the federal government forcing the state-legal cannabis industry to operate as cash-only businesses, without access to capital and loans provided through traditional financial institutions, countless entrepreneurs are prevented from entering the market and existing businesses are unable to expand. At present, 37 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia have legal medical cannabis programs. Furthermore, 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 that number is only expected to grow. Leaving such a vast and profitable sector to operate on a cash only basis stimulates economic growth. We are leaving money on the table when we should be taking every opportunity to bolster our economy.

The impact of the financial barriers to participation in this growing industry have caused inequitable economic growth and opportunities within the cannabis market, effectively restricting participation to those who can participate without the support of a financial institution. The federal government’s antiquated cannabis prohibition has resulted in the incarceration of countless persons of color and created barriers preventing them from accessing employment, housing, and capital. A lack of banking access for the industry is presently compounding the harm by frustrating the attempts of those disproportionately harmed by the failed “War on Drugs” from participating in state-legal cannabis markets. This has created inequitable growth where wealthy white Americans are profitable while communities of color are unable to access the same opportunities. In addition, it creates barriers for low-income patients who do not have the necessary resources to withdraw large sums of cash whenever they need medication.

Beyond the impact of this lack of banking access on the state-legal medical and adult use industries, the inconsistent approach to cannabis policies by the federal government is also preventing the growth of the federally legal hemp industry. Following federal hemp legalization in 2018, my department established the state’s first hemp program. In its first year alone, our hemp program created an estimated $370 million economic impact, supported over 9,000 jobs, and generated over $17 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue. There are currently over 700 active hemp cultivation licenses, 900 plus cultivation sites, and a surplus 19,000 approved acres across 64 of Florida’s 67 counties. While Florida’s hemp farmers and manufacturers are upstanding operations, they often face the same barriers when it comes to accessing the financial services needed to thrive. Without Congressional action, continued federal cannabis policies could discourage certain financial institutions from partnering with farmers and businesses in this new industry.

With the majority of states having legalized cannabis in some form, and the reclassification of hemp as an agricultural commodity in the 2018 Farm Bill, our nation is long past due in tearing down the barriers created by federal cannabis prohibition. Regardless of your position on federal legalization, we should all agree that Florida’s more than 700,000 medical marijuana cardholders deserve to access their medicine without fear of violence or the inconvenience of gathering large sums of cash. I am lending my voice to the calls from the financial industry, the cannabis industry, customers, elected officials, and law enforcement in urging you to fight for the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act language in the final version of the America COMPETES Act.

Sincerely,

Nicole “Niki” Fried
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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