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Cannabis banking reform is smart, necessary and politically viable – TechCrunch

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Pressure is steadily mounting on U.S. lawmakers to implement comprehensive cannabis banking reform at the federal level, and that pressure is coming from all directions.

Rapid shifts in public opinion and a rising number of states with legal medical and adult-use cannabis sales have laid bare an obvious need to update our banking laws to meet the age of regulated cannabis markets. And earlier this month, Congress tackled the issue head on in a widely anticipated hearing that had huge implications for the future of banking for America’s legal cannabis industry.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was among the most notable topics discussed during the House Financial Services Committee hearing February 13, which was titled “Challenges and Solutions: Access to Banking Services for Cannabis-Related Businesses.”

The legislation, which would provide safe harbor to banks working with state-legal cannabis businesses, counts a large and diverse group of lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement professionals, financial institutions, businesses interests and trade organizations among its supporters.

House Financial Services Committee member Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), along with Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), introduced the SAFE Banking Act in the last Congress, with 95 co-sponsors — including 13 Republicans — signing on. Twenty bipartisan co-sponsors signed onto the companion bill, introduced in the Senate by Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The two bills drew some heavyweight co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and in the House, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

And a bipartisan group of 19 state attorneys general came together last year to urge Congress to advance legislation that would allow state-legal cannabis businesses to utilize traditional banking services available to every other legal industry in the United States.

Groups like the Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community of Bankers of America, American Bankers Association and the National Cannabis Industry Association are also vocal advocates for the measure.

As the U.S. cannabis industry continues along its steady growth trajectory, access to banking services is perhaps the most critical challenge facing operators.

And that wasn’t the first attempt in the House to address the cannabis banking problem. In 2014, House lawmakers passed an amendment to an appropriations bill (228-195) that, much like the SAFE Banking Act, would have extended legal protections to financial institutions working with state-regulated cannabis businesses. The measure failed to move through the Senate, however.

But much has changed since 2014. Ten states and Washington, DC, have now legalized cannabis for adult use; 33 states have legalized comprehensive medical cannabis programs; two in three Americans now support legalizing cannabis nationwide for recreational use, according to Gallup polling data; and a majority of older Americans — a formidable voting bloc — now supports legalization. Momentum around cannabis reform is spreading across the globe as well, with cannabis now legally available to adults for recreational use in both Canada and Uruguay, and numerous countries mulling similar reforms.

A brand new multi-billion-dollar industry has risen up in a few short years, and yet, most financial institutions in the U.S. remain reluctant to work with cannabis businesses due to fears of violating federal money laundering laws. That fear has forced the majority of cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis — creating massive security risks, logistical nightmares and regulatory headaches for all parties involved.

As the U.S. cannabis industry continues along its steady growth trajectory, access to banking services is perhaps the most critical challenge facing operators. The recent House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing represents the committee’s first-ever hearing on this issue — a promising first step toward passing the SAFE Banking Act.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans across the political spectrum want Congress to enact legislation allowing financial institutions to do business with legal cannabis operators, according to polling data from think tank Third Way.

With this new Congress, there may finally be progress. Rep. Perlmutter and Rep. Heck plan to re-introduce the SAFE Banking Act in the House, and Sen. Merkley is expected to re-introduce a similar measure in the Senate. Now we need House lawmakers to prioritize this issue and move these measures through the legislature, so they can become the law of the land.

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Facebook Libra currency still a thing, could launch next year

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Although it hasn’t disappeared, cryptocurrency and digital currencies seemed to have taken a backseat in recent months as far as news coverage is concerned. Given the global economy and health situation, however, interest in this new form of currency has apparently surged in the background. That may have given the group behind Facebook’s controversial Libra cryptocurrency the motivation to finally push it to the market as early as January, even if it isn’t the grand vision that Facebook and its remaining allies had for it last year.

It’s not that hard to imagine why Libra would be bogged down by controversy even before it had the chance to prove itself, despite the big names that were once behind it. Cryptocurrency itself is already a difficult concept to grasp by those outside Fintech circles, but the mere association with Facebook, who is credited with Libra’s creation, has instantly raised red flags among regulators. Those regulators still haven’t budged but now it seems that sentiments have changed according to sources.

The Financial Times reports that the Libra Association is looking towards January for the much-delayed launch of the cryptocurrency. It won’t be the same Libra that Facebook et al. flaunted last year and is pretty much a watered-down version of an already watered-down compromise the group had to make to satisfy regulators’ concerns. Getting approval from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, however, is just the tip of the iceberg of what the currency has to accomplish.

Having lost founding members such as PayPal. Mastercard, and eBay dealt a big blow to the fledgling association. Although it still has big names like Spotify or Uber, losing members from the financial or commerce sector tarnishes the Association’s image and puts its capability to handle a cryptocurrency into question. Some of those remaining members are even taking a wait and see approach, which could reduce the impact of Libra’s launch in January.

Libra’s biggest problem, however, will be Facebook. Although the group has done everything it could to distance itself from the social networking giant, Libra will remain forever associated with it, even through subsidiaries like Novi, formerly Calibra. Given Facebook’s reputation before lawmakers, regulators, and privacy advocates, the idea of putting the world’s money into its hands will always be an unsettling one.

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Galaxy Note 21 might still happen next year with a catch

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Reports of the Galaxy Note line’s demise might be exaggerated or premature. Those reports were mostly based on rumors that the Galaxy S21, particularly the Galaxy S21 Ultra, would gain the one feature that sets the two products apart. A report from South Korean media does seem to confirm that Samsung has gotten the ball rolling to give the Galaxy S21 Ultra its own S Pen. At the same time, however, it also gives Galaxy Note fans one last hope, at least until next year.

For years, the Galaxy Note’s doom has been spelled out by prophets and analysts but it never came to pass, at least not yet. The S Pen is pretty much the last thing that the Galaxy Note has over the Galaxy S series and rumors suggest that might no longer the case. But rather than scrap the stylus-toting phablet next year, Samsung is now reportedly winding it down first.

ETnews’ sources claim that Samsung has already placed orders for the digitizer that’s needed to give the top of the line Galaxy S21 this S Pen support. It would have been way too early for the Galaxy Note 21 or even the Galaxy Z Fold 3. This unofficially confirms the feature for Samsung’s early 2021 flagship coming in mid-January, or so leaks claim.

Those sources also say that there will still be a Galaxy Note next year but Samsung has reduced it to just one model. For two years, Samsung has put out two variants of this flagship and the reduction could suggest that Samsung is giving the line one last hoorah.

That would at least give the company enough time to prepare its true successor, the Galaxy Z Fold. Samsung has yet to figure out, much less prove, how it would allow using a stylus on the somewhat fragile flexible screen it uses for its foldable phones. Rumors that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 would have this feature might likewise be premature, especially if there will still be a Galaxy Note 21 after all.

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Apple M1 Mac running Windows 10 ARM is embarrassing for Surface Pro X

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It seems that Apple’s M1 Silicon isn’t yet done amazing people, even those from outside of Apple’s circles. The processor’s benchmarks have already been covered to death but nothing is probably more impressive than the M1’s performance outside of the common and officially supported use cases. Running Windows games via CrossOver, for example, is already quite a feat but running Windows itself on top of macOS Big Sur, just like what one developer accomplished, is even more dumbfounding. Especially when it clocks better than Windows 10 ARM’s “reference” Microsoft device.

Apple has removed the Boot Camp from macOS Big Sur on M1 Macs but not because Windows doesn’t run on ARM-based hardware. Apple is putting the ball in Microsoft’s court, explaining that it’s up to the Windows creator to make that happen by changing Windows 10 ARM’s licensing and making installers available. That said, it is technically possible to still run Windows on M1 Macs as developer Alexander Graf proved.

To be clear, he didn’t use the x86 version of Windows 10 as that would have added a layer of complexity to be emulated on an ARM-based Mac. Instead, he took an Insider Preview of Windows 10 ARM and ran it through a modified version of QEMU, a popular open source virtualization and machine emulation software, and utilizing Apple’s own Hypervisor.framework designed exactly for virtualization purposes.

According to Graf, the performance of this layer cake was quite snappy, though other testers who tried to replicate the setup did point out some issues. More interesting, however, The 8-bit reports the Geekbench scores for this Window ARM on ARM Mac outdid Windows ARM running on Microsoft’s own Surface Pro X.

That said, the current setup is hardly ideal and M1 Mac owners who need to run Windows software might want to wait for something like CodeWeavers’ CrossOver instead. It might also be a while before a full version of Windows will be able to run officially on these new Macs, via dual boot or virtualization, but this latest experiment still showcases the first Apple Silicon’s prowess.

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