Hundreds if not thousands of cannabis businesses operate legally in states throughout the U.S. However, many of them must operate as cash-only businesses. This is due to the gray area between state laws and that of the federal U.S. government. A historic vote took place on March 28th which the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 to 15 to approve the SAFE Banking Act. With this approval, the legislation now awaits a discussion and vote by the full House of Representatives.
Before this vote, there were several hours of debate amongst the committee members. During this time, various amendments were made to the bill before it passed with the majority vote. Here are the critical changes to the bill as well as the essential aspects of what it addresses.
The SAFE Banking Act
The SAFE Banking Act could help solve one of the most significant issues that cannabis businesses currently face. This problem is none other than the issue that they do not have access to banking services. This bill, if passed, would give federally insured banks the approval needed for working with legal cannabis businesses.
An amendment made by Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, the lead sponsor, helps to clarify the definition of the specific financial services covered by the bill. It also made an addition that requires the US federal government to research inclusion and diversity throughout the cannabis industry nationwide.
This amendment requires that financial regulators issue reports annually that track “information and data on the availability of access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses” according to Forbes.
A hidden gem within the amendments came from Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio which extended the protections offered by this legislation to insurance companies as well. A voice vote approved all of these amendments before the final vote on the bill.
There were also amendments from individuals such as Rep. Andy Barr and Rep. Sean Duffy that would have delayed the effective date of the bill, one that would have made the legislation only applicable to hemp businesses. There were also suggested amendments that would have removed protections for financial institutions who work with entities that operate within a certain vicinity of places that children may frequent. Luckily these nonsensical amendments did not receive approval.
Moving Towards Federal Legalization
Representative Earl Blumenauer who has been a strong advocate for cannabis for many years gave a blueprint earlier this year on how to legalize cannabis at the federal level. Banking was one of the very first issues in his blueprint that would first need to be addressed. If this bill continues to receive the support that it has thus far from both parties in the federal government, it looks like changes will soon be coming. According to House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, a vote on legalization at the federal level could be just a matter of weeks away!