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Kris Mayes joins attorneys general urging Congress to let marijuana companies use banks

A U.S. Senate committee this week advanced a bill that would let state-licensed marijuana companies use banks and not punish financial institutions for serving them.

Arizona’s Kris Mayes is one of more than 20 attorneys general who’ve signed a letter urging D.C. lawmakers to pass legislation called the Safer Banking Act.

The group of bipartisan prosecutors say most states have legalized marijuana in some form, and regulated sales could reach $33.6 billion this year.

“The symbolic impact is the greatest part of this,” said Demitri Downing, founder of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association in Arizona.

The industry lobbyist sees all moves to end prohibition as steps forward.

“But as we have seen with cannabis policy, it's slow. What’s that word? A slow crawl or a slog or something," said Downing

The attorneys general tell Congress that letting marijuana companies use banks would prevent losing hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenue.

“But it depends how many of the operators are out there saying ‘I can operate in cash. Nobody is going to be able to hold me accountable, and I don’t have to pay the state of Arizona this or that,’” said Downing.

He also said that legalizing relationships between banks and cannabis companies would also help reduce the illicit market.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.