US House will again consider cannabis banking reform

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

(The story has been updated to reflect that the SAFE Banking Act was officially reintroduced.)

A cannabis banking reform bill was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, according to congressional staffers.

The House passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act by a bipartisan vote of 321-103 in September 2019, but the measure stalled in the Senate.

Since it wasn’t passed by the full Congress in the last legislative cycle, the bill needed to be reintroduced in order to have a chance to become a law during the two-year legislative session that started in January.

SAFE also is expected to be reintroduced in the Senate within weeks.

Experts are bullish about the chances of cannabis banking reform now that Democrats have taken slim control of both chambers of Congress.

Marijuana industry officials have identified cannabis banking reform as critical to secure traditional banking services and capital to begin and operate businesses.

The SAFE Banking Act will enable financial institutions to serve state-legal marijuana firms without fear of federal prosecution.

“At a time when small businesses need all the support they can get, and after cannabis businesses specifically have been providing essential services and generating significant tax revenues for states and the federal government with little to no financial relief, it is more imperative than ever to get the SAFE Banking Act passed into law,” Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement.

“Lack of access to banking services continues to create serious unnecessary issues for public safety, transparency, and access to traditional lending that smaller operators desperately need,” he added.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat, has spearheaded the efforts to pass the SAFE Banking Act in previous sessions, focusing in large part on the public-safety risk of a mostly cash marijuana industry.

Senate Republicans have been more open to cannabis banking reform than more comprehensive measures, such as descheduling marijuana. But passage still is a bit uncertain.

Senate bills need 60 votes to pass, with some exceptions. If the Congressional filibuster is ended, as is being pushed by some Democrats, then bills would need only the support of the majority.

– Jeff Smith