Cannabis Banking Bill Passes in House of Representatives

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has passed the House of Representatives by a comfortable margin of 321-103. The bill H.R. 1595, sponsored by Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., allows banks to do business with cannabis-related businesses without fear of repercussions. 

“I want to thank all my colleagues who have listened to me talk about the need to address this problem for 6+ years as well as the staff and the coalition that came together to get this bill over the finish line in the House,” he said in a tweet.

Cannabis businesses in the legalized state markets have been unable to access traditional banking services in most cases. The vast majority run solely on a cash basis, which is exceedingly difficult. Many face issues meeting payroll, paying taxes, securing loans, and the need to pay for increased security in order to guard large amounts of cash.

Many have concerns and believe this will only enable those seeking to make a fortune from cannabis while many people remain incarcerated.

The bill had 206 cosponsors. For reference, a majority in the House is obtained with 218 votes of 435 Members. While most are Democrats, 16 are Republicans, most known for more moderate views or hail from states where it is legal. It passed out of the Financial Services Committee in May and has support from the American Banking Association, the premier banking lobby.

However, in the Senate, Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has yet to schedule a hearing on the subject, though that might change soon. Idaho is one of three states in the country without even a limited medical cannabis program.

Some criminal justice advocates are exceedingly critical of the bill for having no provisions for dealing with those charged with possession. Marginalized communities bare the brunt of the War on Drugs, and have yet to reap the benefits of legalization.

“The SAFE Act bill will […] provide banking to the industry the way banking is done with other businesses,” said Matthew Schweich, Deputy Director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Schweich said that the bill contained a provision for equity given that people of color have less access to private wealth so, “capital is a problem. So this should [be] helpful, particularly to lower-income people that were disproportionately affected, will eliminate barriers.”

He explained on the state level, some lawmakers are seeking to include such provisions in legalization bills. 

 “[…] We at MPP will push for further reform,” Schweich said, reasoning that momentum from the SAFE Act will help further bills and certainly not hurt their chances of passage.

He added that it was unclear how it would affect consolidation, believing that adult-use legalization would lead to consolidation instead.

Emerald contributor since September 2019

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