The bipartisan SAFE Banking Act (H.R.1595) was introduced by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), and it had 206 total cosponsors (including 108 original). It aims to address the state-legal cannabis industry’s lack of access to banking and other financial services. In summary, it provides a safe harbor from federal prosecution for financial institutions that offer services to state-legal cannabis businesses, reducing the uncertainty and risk that deters many banks from working with the cannabis industry.
“We applaud the House for approving this bipartisan solution to the cannabis banking problem, and we hope the Senate will move quickly to do the same,” said Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, which lobbied in support of the bill. “This vital legislation will have an immediate and positive impact, not only on the state-legal cannabis industry, but also on the many communities across the nation that have opted to embrace the regulation of cannabis. Allowing lawful cannabis companies to access commercial banking services and end their reliance on cash will greatly improve public safety, increase transparency, and promote regulatory compliance.”
The cannabis banking debate will now shift to the Senate, where a companion version of the SAFE Banking Act (S.1200) was introduced in April by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and a bipartisan group of 21 original cosponsors. It currently has 33 total cosponsors. Earlier this month, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) said his committee will take up the cannabis banking issue this year and is working on preparing a new bill.
“This is a serious public safety matter that needs to be addressed by Congress this session,” Levine said. “It is only going to grow in urgency and magnitude as states continue to roll back cannabis prohibition policies. Enacting the SAFE Banking Act would greatly bolster state’s efforts to promote safety, regulatory compliance, and equity within the cannabis industry. Cannabis-related companies are lawfully operating in states around the country, and they deserve the same access to banking that is afforded to every other type of lawful business.”
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (the “SAFE Banking Act”) in a historic and bipartisan vote, 321-103. The SAFE Banking Act would create a safe harbor for financial institutions who desire to do business with state-legal cannabis businesses. It is the first standalone piece of cannabis legislation to reach the House floor, let alone pass.
Attention now turns to the U.S. Senate. A companion bill currently has 33 sponsors in the Senate, and recently Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) indicated he will present some type of cannabis banking reform bill to the Senate Banking Committee for a vote (see this blogpostfor more details). If passed out of committee, that bill would go to the full Senate and its fate would rest in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who would ultimately decide whether to bring the bill to a floor vote. Senator McConnell is not a marijuana legalization advocate (although he is a hemp advocate), but there remains significant outside pressure to address the banking problems plaguing the legal marijuana industry. We are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of Senate passage.
We are celebrating this historic (and long overdue) event, while also recognizing there is work left to be done. We will continue to report on banking reform issues on ourblog.
Here’s a MJ Biz Report published just prior to the vote outlining all the issues
House passes historic marijuana banking bill with backing from Southern California reps
SAFE Banking Act still faces objections from cannabis opponents and some civil rights advocates.