The U.S. House of Representatives approved The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019 today with a 321 – 103 vote—a historic move that represents the first time a standalone cannabis bill at the federal level was voted on the House floor. The resolution has been seven years in the making.
The SAFE Banking Act would protect banks that cater to cannabis businesses. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter and gained 206 co-sponsors. For the bill to pass, it needed 290 affirmative votes—or two-thirds vote from the House. It would remove a significant barrier to the pathway to legitimacy for cannabis businesses in any state that allows medical or recreational cannabis.
Within the cannabis community, there are varying reactions to the bill, and some doubt whether it will be sufficient enough to effectively tip the scales int the Senate. “Passing the SAFE Banking Act will show that Congress can work together in a bipartisan way to address outdated marijuana laws,” tweeted Rep. Perlmutter tweeted. “I hope this bill is an icebreaker for the House to take up other reforms and finally remove the conflict between state and federal laws.”
The #SAFEBankingAct passed by a vote of 321 to 103 in the U.S. House! This is a huge milestone in reforming federal cannabis laws and reducing the public safety risk in communities across the country. #SAFEBanking #copolitics
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) September 25, 2019
Last March, the House Financial Committee approved the bill, and it gained support from the American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America. Last May, 38 state and territory attorneys general wrote a letter in support of the bill. The bill “would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector, enabling law enforcement; federal, state and local tax agencies; and cannabis regulators in 33 states and several territories to more effectively monitor cannabis businesses and their transactions,” the attorneys general wrote. A companion bill in the Senate has gained 33 co-sponsors but remains in committee.
But not everybody is fully supportive of the bill, including cannabis industry organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress, The Drug Policy Alliance and Human Rights Watch all urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put a hold on the bill due to its lack of inclusive social equity provisions. That group would rather see the passage of Rep. Jerry Nadler’s Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act , which would end prohibition but include more provisions to help those impacted by the “War on Drugs.”
The bill now makes it way to the U.S. Senate for approval.