It’s a familiar scenario: legislation that would shield financial service providers that work with cannabis businesses has cleared the U.S. House of Representatives.
Friday marked the sixth time the SAFE Banking Act has made it this far.
This time the bill made it through the House in a 222-to-210 vote, after it was included as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act, an economic development bill.
Now it heads to the Senate for consideration.
Thank you for your advocacy and partnership as we continue to push forward to reform our federal cannabis laws. https://t.co/NNDkJZx32b
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) February 4, 2022
“I will keep pushing to ensure SAFE Banking remains in the final America COMPETES package negotiated with the Senate,” bill sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter said on Twitter.
“SAFE Banking remains the best opportunity to enact some type of federal cannabis reform this year & will serve as the first of many steps to comprehensive reform.”
Perlmutter and Rep. David Joyce held a press conference Friday, where they indicated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports the measure, and that the representatives are having conversations with senators about the bill, according to reporters on the scene.
— Natalie Fertig (@natsfert) February 4, 2022
“We agree: targeted, bipartisan cannabis reforms like SAFE Banking and HOPE Act can — and should — pass otherwise divided Congress,” Joyce wrote on Twitter.
So far, the major hurdle has been clearing the Senate, where cannabis legislation continues to fail.
There was some optimism the bill would have a fighting chance in the Senate when the SAFE Banking Act was attached to a defence bill late last year. But when the National Defense Authorization Act was released, it didn’t include the banking bill.
Read more: SAFE Banking Act pulled from defence bill
At the time, Perlmutter said he would “pursue every possible avenue” to get the bill signed into law. In January, he announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in November.
Under the banking act, proceeds from legal weed stores wouldn’t be considered unlawful anymore, so banks wouldn’t have to work around anti-money laundering laws to conduct business with cannabis companies.
And the act would open up credit card transactions for pot businesses that have been limited to cash-only, which has made them more susceptible to theft.
While advocates have voiced concern about the lack of equity provisions in the legislation, advocacy organization NORML notes that the number of times the bill has been approved shows where voters stand on the issue.
“The SAFE Banking Act is only the first step toward making sure that state-legal marijuana markets operate safely, efficiently, and fairly,” political director Morgan Fox says in a statement.
“But unfortunately, the sad reality is that those who own or patronize these currently unbanked businesses are still nonetheless recognized as criminals in the eyes of the federal government and by federal law,” she continues.
“This situation can only be rectified by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, and there are several pending legislative vehicles before Congress that can accomplish this goal. In the meantime, the passage of the SAFE Banking Act is a step in the right direction that will directly improve many people’s lives.”
A recent report found that 72 per cent of cannabis companies listed a lack of financial services as their biggest concern.