Alaska lawmakers are considering a joint resolution urging Congress to let state-legalized cannabis companies do business at U.S. banks and credit unions.
Republican Rep. Sara Rasmussen is leading the effort to ask President Biden and the Alaska delegation to enact federal legislation formally recognizing the nation’s $8 billion cannabis industry, largely composed of small businesses.
The resolution requests that the president and Congress allow companies in states where marijuana is legal to access U.S. financial services.
Alaska is among roughly three dozen states that have legalized marijuana, whether for recreation, medical use or both. But under federal law, marijuana remains illegal in the United States. It is a federal crime to grow, sell or use marijuana for any reason.
“While so many small businesses are struggling right now due to the Covid pandemic, the last thing we need to do is place more financial hardship on them,” Rasmussen said.
“There are over 400 [cannabis] businesses here in Alaska that employ tens of thousands of individuals,” she added. “By preventing these small businesses from accessing financial institutions we are continuing to hurt our economy.”
One of those businesses is THC Alaska, an indoor grower that manufactures cannabis products for wholesale to retailers.
Lacy Wilcox is political liaison for the company. “Currently, we are cash only. There are a lucky few who have opened up bank accounts and have not gotten flagged,” said Wilcox, who is president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, a trade group.
“Not only is our rent and utilities paid in cash, but our employees are paid in cash,” Wilcox said. “There is a public safety component. I get on a plane to make cash payments to the state to cover our taxes. That is a ton of cash to carry. There are ramifications for staff, owners and vendors.”
Rasmussen’s resolution before the Alaska Legislature notes that proprietors and employees of “cash-intensive” businesses may become potential criminal targets when they cannot access financial institutions to deposit their dollars.
The resolution notes that tracking marijuana-related revenue for taxes and regulatory compliance is a challenge without federal legislation supporting cannabis commerce.
Rasmussen’s resolution supports language in the SAFE Banking Act before Congress that would enable banks and credit unions to service legal cannabis businesses. The resolution also supports a section of the federal Heroes Act that gives state-legalized cannabis companies the right to bank in the United States.
The joint resolution has advanced through House committees and is now being heard in Senate committees.
The resolution, which collected 10 co-sponsors in the House, has bi-partisan support in the Alaska Legislature.
Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.