U.S. House promotes cannabis banking reform as part of defense bill

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Tuesday, September 22, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a cannabis banking amendment  by a voice vote. The amendment will be included in this year’s defense budget bill.

Although the cannabis banking reform amendment was approved, the full House must still approve the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 before it can be embraced in its entirety. 

Nonetheless, the initial approval of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act amendment paves the way for the legislation to be included in the final measure.

Currently, it remains uncertain as to whether or not the provision will be supported by the U.S. Senate.

Back in April, cannabis banking reform was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 321-101. However, activists are still waiting patiently for the Senate to tackle the ongoing issue that plagues the legal cannabis industry.

What would the SAFE Banking Act do for the cannabis industry?

For many years, state-legal cannabis businesses have tried to gain access to banking services – including lines of credit, payroll accounts and checking accounts – but to no avail. 

If the SAFE Banking Act is adopted as part of this year’s defense budget bill, banks and various other financial institutions would be legally allowed to serve cannabis businesses without federal interference.

“[The Act] will strengthen the security of our financial system & keep bad actors like cartels out. Most importantly, it will reduce the risk of violent crime in our communities,” wrote U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) in a recently posted tweet.

Likelihood of Senate approving SAFE Banking Act is brighter than it was in previous years

There’s a good chance that the SAFE Banking Act will be approved this year. After all, Democrats claimed control of the Senate in the November 2020 election.

Democrats have not been shy about their plan to legalize cannabis at the federal level. In December, the House approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would eliminate cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

U.S. Cannabis Council CEO Steven Hawkins, who also assumes the role of executive director of the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, is pressing Congress to enforce the cannabis banking measure.

“Over $17 billion in legal cannabis was sold in the United States last year, overwhelmingly through cash transactions,” Hawkins said in a recently-issued statement. “Forcing legitimate, well-regulated cannabis businesses to conduct most of their business in cash is anachronistic and a clear threat to public safety.”