This morning, the House Financial Services Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595), which would smooth pathways for state-legal cannabis companies to access the federally regulated banking industry, in a 45-15 vote.
The ultimate goal of the bipartisan effort around HR 1595 is to provide the most rudimentary banking practices to the rapidly expanding cannabis industry, as both dispensaries and regulators hope to stop dealing with the massive piles of cash cannabis sales produce.
This is the first time ever that a bill designed to provide financial services to the cannabis industry has passed a congressional committee. One would imagine the 152 cosponsors that signed on to Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado’s plan helped push it through.
What the SAFE Banking Act Would Do for the Cannabis Industry
The way the SAFE Banking Act would accomplish access to banking for cannabis companies is by stopping federal banking regulators from going after banks and credit unions that are providing services to cannabis companies in full compliance with state law. Most of the dispensaries that currently have access to banking services — and merchant services that let you have things like a credit card machine — are dealing with an array of sketchy folks. These dispensaries have brought every other part of their existence into the light in recent years, and the SAFE Banking Act would not only finish the job but just make life easier.
Congress’s Cannabis Caucus founder and co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer applauded the Financial Services Committee’s decision to move the bill forward.
“This is the most significant step we’ve seen so far toward addressing our outdated federal marijuana policies,” Blumenauer said in a press release. “We’ve actually gone through the process, fully debated, and seen broad bipartisan support. I applaud the outstanding work of Chairwoman Waters and Representatives Heck and Perlmutter for making this possible. The SAFE Banking Act solves a major problem for the state legal cannabis industry and its success moving through the committee is a signal of how we can move forward with other critical proposals.”
Cannabis Advocates Celebrate Bill’s Progress With Baited Breath
The Safe and Responsible Banking Alliance, which calls itself a coalition of financial institutions, associations, governments, and select businesses advocating for a solution to federal cannabis banking prohibitions, also applauded the bill’s progress out of committee. The organization’s president Jack Jacobson said he was glad to see Congress getting with the times.
“This historic committee vote signals that Congress is starting to catch up with the rest of the country when it comes to recognizing the growth of the legal cannabis and cannabinoid market in the United States,” Jacobson said in a statement released by SARBA. “In concert with strong state regulations, the SAFE Banking Act is a critical component to eliminating the black market and keeping marijuana out of the wrong hands.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project said it was thrilled to see the progress being made down the street on Capitol Hill. While a lot of people think of various state campaigns to legalize marijuana as the biggest feather’s in the organization’s cap, they’ve been a presence on Capitol Hill for over twenty years.
“This is a historic and critical step forward for the nation’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Lawmakers seem to recognize the urgency and public safety implications of ensuring cannabis businesses can access banking services,” MPP executive director Steve Hawkins said in a statement. “Regardless of where members stand on legalization, they can agree that it is in the public interest to make banking available to cannabis businesses in states where it is legal. We hope the full House will follow the committee’s recommendation and advance this important legislation.”
The National Cannabis Industry Association noted that suggested amendments included having the Government Accountability Office look at the impact of the bill.
“The SAFE Banking Act would go a long way toward improving safety, transparency, access, and justice in the cannabis industry,” said NCIA’s executive director Aaron Smith in a statement. “The amendments agreed upon in committee should solidify the already overwhelming support for this legislation in the House. The cannabis and financial services industries have been waiting for clarification and protection for far too long, and we are confident the House would approve this bill if allowed to vote on it without further delay.”
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