Five senators prompt lawmakers to keep cannabis banking in defense spending package

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The names of Colorado’s current U.S. senators, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, were recently added to an ever-growing list of congressional members who want to prevent legislative leaders in their attempt to remove cannabis banking from a defense spending bill.

Expected to be renegotiated in December, the omnibus defense spending package features a chunk of legal language pertaining to the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which was added to a revised version of the bill by the U.S. House of Representatives in September. 

Unfortunately unless the aforementioned senators get their way lawmakers may proceed to completely eradicate cannabis-related banking from the defense spending package.

According to a letter written by the Democrats, the Senate Armed Services Committee is being urged to retain the SAFE Banking Act in the final rendition of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“We are writing to urge the conferees to preserve the House-passed measure in conference and include the SAFE Banking Act in the final version of the NDAA,” wrote Bennet and Hickenlooper in their letter to legislative leaders.

“Including the SAFE Banking Amendment in the NDAA will align federal and state laws, promote economic growth and public safety, and increase access to the cannabis industry for underrepresented individuals,” they added.

Biden Treasury secretary says cannabis banking would simplify IRS’s job

Currently, the lack of cannabis banking services across the U.S. has created a serious roadblock for businesses, e.g. no access to financial assistance means that many low budget companies struggle to raise enough capital for their scaling tactics.

With that being said, it’s not surprising that Colorado’s senators are encouraging lawmakers to keep their focus on the SAFE Banking Act. Someone else who is supportive of the Act is Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

On Wednesday, December 1, Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter of the House Financial Services Committee asked Yellen her opinion on whether or not the IRS could improve its tax collection strategy if a law is passed enabling U.S. banks to work with cannabis firms.

“Yes, of course it would,” was Yellen’s response.

In fact, Biden’s Treasury Secretary says that she supports the prospect of granting dispensaries access to the U.S. banking system. Once this happens, she says, it will be much simpler for the government to generate much needed tax revenue.

About the SAFE Banking Act 

Initially introduced to Congress in May 2017, the SAFE Banking Act was presented before lawmakers under the proud sponsorship of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). Since it was first put forward for review, it has been reintroduced on numerous occasions. 

The most recent edition of the SAFE Banking Act was submitted earlier this year with sponsorship from Perlmutter in the House, as well as sponsorship from Merkley and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) in the Senate.

Since passing the House on April 19, the bill has created a buzz of excitement across the cannabis community. Moving forwards, House approval means that the bill stands a good chance of being adopted into law.

Prior to the SAFE Banking Act’s House approval, financial institutions were overly cautious about assisting businesses in industries that deal with federally illegal substances, such as cannabis.

Before the Act can be formally implemented, it must first pass the Senate and receive President Joseph Biden’s signature.