The cannabis industry found itself making out with a huge win on Wednesday, as the House of Representatives voted to allow federally-insured financial institutions to work with marijuana businesses in states that have cannabis legalization.
This was the initial vote on a stand-alone cannabis bill – which is being recognized as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act – was given a green light by the Democratic-controlled chamber by a 321-103 vote and on bipartisan lines, as 229 Democrats, 91 Republicans and one independent voted for it, while 102 Republicans and one Democrat voted against it.
President and CEO of the American Bankers Association, Rob Nichols and Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, in an article done by Fox news, argued for the bill stating, “Passing the SAFE Banking Act would mark a step forward for public safety in this country and would give financial institutions the certainty they need to fully support their communities. It would also demonstrate that Congress can still come together to solve the nation’s challenges.”
Following is the Republican-controlled Senate, where it could possibly be changed to have a better chance to push through. Its bill has 33 cosponsors, which means that a collective of the chamber is now formally signed onto the bill, counting its foremost sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley. It is not certain if Donald Trump would sign his name on any version of the bill that may cross his path.
Advocates of the SAFE Act claim the move will increase public protection, improve clarity and help the funding crunch facing the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry.
The bill also prevents federal regulators from eliminating or restricting deposit insurance – which deterred banks from granting financial assistance to any and all cannabis-related businesses- and stops them from incentivizing or encouraging a bank to close accounts on the grounds that an individual is affiliated with a cannabis or hemp business.
Marijuana is legal in the District of Columbia and 11 states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – but currently it is still illegal under federal law.
“I am proud to bring this legislation to the Floor, but I believe it does not go far enough,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
“This must be a first step toward the decriminalization and de-scheduling of marijuana, which has led to the prosecution and incarceration of far too many of our fellow Americans for possession.
“I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make progress on this issue and reform federal marijuana laws, including de-scheduling marijuana and providing relief to individuals and communities disproportionally affected by racial biases in the way federal marijuana laws have been enforced.”
Democrats said they attached stipulations to the bill that they believe will bring some GOP senators to their team. Supporters from both sides of the political path also hope that increasing public support to legalize the uses of cannabis might persuade legislators up for re-election in 2020. Nevada Rep. Dina Titus (D) tweeted in celebration of passing.
As did, Rep. Deb Haaland, who represents New Mexico’s first district and was a co-sponsor of the bill: “Access to safe banking is a big deal for the businesses and employees in New Mexico who work in the cannabis industry.”