New York’s cannabis industry should be SAFE for workers

OpEd: New York’s cannabis industry should be SAFE for workers

When trying to get started, businesses in all industries experience hardships and setbacks. Those looking to enter the cannabis space are no different. However, unlike other businesses, those working in cannabis find themselves unable to access capital and other essential financial services, leaving them without key economic support and potentially vulnerable to violent crime. As the legal adult cannabis program begins to come online in New York, steps must be taken to ensure workers in the industry are able to build careers and succeed.

A federal law, the SAFE Banking Act, would help remedy this. By preventing financial institutions from denying key financial services to cannabis businesses, this legislation would create safe and prosperous working conditions and help New York’s cannabis industry thrive.

Without access to traditional banking and financial services, cannabis businesses are forced to operate as cash-only businesses, which presents many economic and security challenges.

These companies are forced to have large sums of money, which puts goals on the backs of workers and customers. We have seen several cases across the country where cannabis dispensaries have been robbed with violence. With SAFE Banking, federal restrictions on providing financial services to the legalized cannabis industry would be lifted; and with access to conventional banking and payroll services, would allow these storefronts to work with payment methods other than cash. Cannabis workers, like any other business enterprise, deserve the same right to work in safe conditions.

Along with notable public safety challenges, workers in the industry also face significant financial setbacks. While there are several local banks and financial institutions that might be willing to provide their services to cannabis employees, others do not, leaving many workers in the industry struggling to find access. personal banking services. This prevents them from setting aside money for a child’s tuition, taking out car or student loans, or even securing credit and debit cards. Cannabis employees are struggling to buy homes and need to find alternatives to traditional banking to do so. This includes finding a co-signer and co-borrower, paying cash, or finding other credit unions. However, neither of these alternatives is a guarantee and means that workers may find themselves paying higher rates due to working in an entirely legal profession.

Lack of access to traditional banking services also limits a cannabis worker’s ability to prepare for a secure retirement. Many struggle to identify an institution that will allow them to renew their 401(k) as they transition into the industry. For these unionized workers, federal restrictions prevent them from being able to bargain collectively to participate in their union’s defined benefit plans. For companies that lack access to conventional payroll processing systems that give workers the security of knowing that deductions like Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance are properly funded, this inability access to union benefits is even more detrimental.

If SAFE Banking is passed, it would be federally prohibited to deny financial services to a worker simply because they are employed in the cannabis industry, giving them a level playing field with workers in other industries. , opening up opportunities for growth and investment in its future. .

Although the SAFE Banking Act was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year, it remains stalled in the Senate. We call on Senate Majority Leader Schumer to act on SAFE Banking. Every day without the SAFE Banking Act in place is another day that cannabis workers in New York and across the country can’t access essential financial services, retirement savings, and risk having a place to work. unnecessarily dangerous.

All workers deserve to work in safe environments and to use basic and essential financial services. Passing the SAFE Banking Act would make both of these realities a reality for workers in the cannabis industry in New York. Senator Schumer, it’s time to help ensure a safe and stable future for cannabis workers in New York.

John R. Durso is president of RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 and the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

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