Another attempt to advance legislation that would protect financial institutions working with cannabis businesses from federal prosecution hasn’t worked.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act had cleared the House of Representatives for a fifth time in September as part of next year’s defence spending bill. But on Tuesday the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was released, and didn’t include the banking bill.
Most U.S. states have implemented cannabis programs, but pot remains a federally scheduled drug. As it stands, pot shops are relying on cash transactions with financial institutions hesitant or unwilling to service the cannabis industry without federal legalization.
“I’m disappointed SAFE Banking is not included in the NDAA bill text released today,” says bill sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter. “The Senate insists on burying its head in the sand and deny every opportunity to reform our outdated cannabis laws to align state and federal law to improve public safety.
I’m disappointed #SAFEBanking is not included in the NDAA bill text released today. The Senate insists on burying its head in the sand and deny every opportunity to reform our outdated cannabis laws to align state and federal law to improve public safety.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) December 7, 2021
Perlmutter says his work on the bill “is far from over,” and he plans to “pursue every possible avenue” to get it signed into law.
The banking act’s inclusion in the defence bill was a first, and the legislation hasn’t been able to clear the Senate as a standalone bill.
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 SAFE Banking 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.
Advocates have expressed disappointment over the banking bill’s elimination from the NDAA.
“It is unacceptable that so many state-licensed cannabis businesses are operating entirely in cash simply because the Biden administration and Congress, in spite of overwhelming public support, refuse to support even modest reforms to our country’s failed federal cannabis laws,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement.
While the bill wouldn’t have addressed criminal justice reform, it was an opportunity for incremental progress, he adds.
“Without SAFE Banking, employees of cannabis businesses will continue to face public safety risks. Cannabis businesses are experiencing burglaries, armed robberies and thefts at disturbing rates. It is abundantly clear that leaving cannabis businesses unbanked is dangerous for both workers and the surrounding community.”