WASHINGTON – The Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses (CLIMB) Act was introduced Thursday by U.S. Congressmen Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-LA) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). If passed, the bill would provide safe harbor for private financial institutions that offer lending services to legal cannabis businesses. It would also provide protections for government agencies including the Small Business Administration (SBA), Minority Business Development Association (MBDA), and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), allowing individuals and small businesses to receive funding for cannabis-related businesses and services.
“The bipartisan CLIMB Act is a huge opportunity to bring equity and equal opportunity into our nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry,” Carter said. “From my work on the Small Business Committee and by working directly with small, minority, and veteran-owned cannabis businesses, it’s clear that access to capital remains one of the biggest barriers to entry and to success in the industry. By bringing symmetry into the business ecosystem with the CLIMB Act, we can help communities that have long been harmed by the criminalization of marijuana move to now be leaders in the business sphere — and that’s what the American Dream is all about.”
The introduction of the CLIMB Act coincides with the removal of the SAFE Banking Act from the larger American COMPETES Act, an economic stimulus bill intended to boost manufacturing and innovation. The House-passed SAFE Banking Act prohibits federal banking regulators from penalizing financial institutions that provide banking services to legal cannabis businesses. The COMPETES Act passed the Senate in March; however, lawmakers tasked with resolving differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill removed the cannabis provisions last week.
While the new bipartisan bill is not a comprehensive solution for the industry’s financial issues, it does lower the barriers to entry and helps level the playing field for American entrepreneurs and businesses. “American cannabis companies are currently restricted from receiving traditional lending and financing, making it difficult to compete with larger, global competitors,” Reschenthaler said. “The CLIMB Act will eliminate these barriers to entry, and provide state legal American cannabis companies, including small, minority, and veteran-owned businesses, with access to the financial tools necessary for success.”
“Sixty-eight percent of our survey respondents said that obtaining resources and funding was among their biggest barriers to success in the cannabis space,” said Jennifer Whetzel, founder of the Women in Cannabis Study. “Furthermore, nearly half of the business owners in the study were one-woman enterprises, while another 44 percent have fewer than five employees. Gaining access to traditional lending resources that are otherwise completely out of reach is a step in the right direction but we have a long way to go before our industry is truly equitable for all.”
Along with access to traditional financial services, the bill would also allow legal cannabis businesses to be listed on major stock exchanges including the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange.