A coalition of marijuana advocacy groups sent a letter to House leadership on Friday, asking that they incorporate language allowing the cannabis industry to access banking services in upcoming coronavirus relief legislation.
Because financial institutions fear being penalized by federal regulators if they work with state-legal marijuana businesses, these companies are often forced to deal on a largely cash basis. That has long put them at risk of being targets of crime—but the groups said during this outbreak, it’s especially dangerous, as the virus can be spread widely if hard currency is contaminated and circulated.
The banking restriction means that many cannabis businesses accept only cash for purchases, rather than contactless options such as credit cards or remote payment, which hampers recommended social distancing practices.
“As recent reports show that viruses can live on cash for up to 17 days, the public safety concerns of this cash-only system compound,” the letter says. “The lack of access to financial institutions places industry workers, government employees, and the public at-large at risk as banknotes circulate from consumers and patients to businesses to government.”