Triggered by a recent spate of dispensary robberies, pro-cannabis lawmakers are redoubling efforts for banking reform. “The time for congressional dithering on this issue needs to end, because people are dying,” Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti said “Robbers go where the cash is.”
Most banks and credit unions refuse to work with dispensaries, leaving owners with limited options for storing cash. This leaves them vulnerable to criminals. According to industry trackers, the rate of incidents is increasing fast. Washington State has already reported 80 robberies this year, significantly more than in the same period in 2021.
“It makes absolutely no sense that legal cannabis businesses are being forced to operate entirely in cash. It’s dangerous—and sometime even fatal—for the employees behind the register,” said Senator Patty Murray(D-WA), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate. 
Murray is pushing the SAFE Banking Act, a measure that would allow dispensaries to open bank accounts and access business loans. The SAFE Act has passed the House six times in the past few years, but it’s never made it out of the Senate.
Currently, the bill is attached to the COMPETES Act, a measure focused on Chinese trade. The fact lawmakers are trying to push cannabis banking reform through as an amendment on an unrelated bill could mean trouble in the Senate where add-ons are historically unpopular.
“China has been steadily building up its military and economic might, and the Democrats’ answer is to help Americans get high?” McConnell said in February. 
However, the SAFE Act still has a better chance of becoming law than it ever has before. When the bill was first introduced in the Senate, it had four Republican sponsors. Now there are nine. Many of the remaining objections on both sides have less to do with cannabis than how the bill is being proposed.
“With 42 Senate cosponsors, including 9 Republicans, the SAFE Banking Act
presents our greatest opportunity to ensure some level of federal cannabis reform gets done this year,” Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter said in a statement. 
There are still disagreements, even amongst those who support pro-cannabis legislation. Many Democrats, for instance, believe that banking reform is useless without social equity measures, while most Republicans are against any social equity measure.
Until dispensaries have access to legal banking services, these businesses will be attractive targets for robberies.