A bipartisan bill to create safe-harbour protections for banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses without federal interference has been scheduled for a vote in the United States House of Representatives next week.
On Friday, the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer formally listed the SAFE Banking Act on its online schedule for all legislation considered during the week of April 19.
This would be the first vote on the major cannabis reform bill in this year’s Congress session.
After the act was reintroduced in the House for the eighth time last month, policy experts said they expect it has a good chance of becoming law this year but not without complications.
While Democrats now control the House, Senate and White House, some progressive lawmakers in the party have argued that legalization bills should be prioritized over the banking measure since they address social justice issues related to the decades-long war on drugs.
But banking reforms are a logical short-term solution before a sweeping federal legalization bill moves forward on Capitol Hill, says Chris Lindsey, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project.
The SAFE Act is an important stop-gap measure and not a replacement for legalization, he told Mugglehead last month.
The bill would open up opportunities for frustrated equity licence applicants who can’t get loans to launch a cannabis business. It would also open up open up credit card transactions for pot companies that currently operate on a cash-only basis, which makes them more susceptible to theft.
The House passed the legislation with bipartisan support in 2019, but was halted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Language from the provision was also included in two Covid-19 relief packages that the lower chamber approved last year.
The SAFE Act has 151 co-sponsors in the House, which represents more than one-third of the chamber. It was also refiled in the Senate last month.
The bill has a better chance of passing this year because cannabis banking has become a larger public-safety issue on both sides of the political aisle, Lindsey explained.
I’ll be voting for the SAFE Banking Act in the House.
It is absurd that Marijuana business cannot fully access the US financial system. pic.twitter.com/5YDeuUBr0p
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) April 16, 2021
Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican, said in a Friday tweet that he’ll “be voting for the SAFE Banking Act in the House” and that it’s “absurd that marijuana business cannot fully access the U.S. financial system.”
However, neither Gaetz nor the House Majority Leader’s office has revealed exactly when the vote will happen.
The act would need a two-thirds super majority to pass because it will be taken up under a process known as suspension of the rules.
The Senate’s filibuster rules require 60 votes to end debate on most larger bills, and allow the minority party to halt the majority’s efforts.
Democrats now hold 50 seats in the 100-seat Senate and only maintain control due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker vote.
Newly seated Senate banking chair Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, told reporters in February he’s willing to pass the cannabis banking bill, “but with it needs to come sentencing reform.”
Democratic Rep. Ed Perlumtter, who authored and introduced a version of the bill in every Congress since 2013, says cannabis legalization has already swept across the U.S. so banking reform is inevitable.
Currently, 36 states have legalized weed for medical or adult use, while 47 states have passed hemp laws and permit CBD sales.
A new Pew Research Center poll found an overwhelming share of U.S. adults support federal cannabis reform, with 91 per cent in favour of either medical or recreational legalization, or both.
Top image via Deposit Photos