Since Proposition 215 passed in California in the mid-’90s, the legal cannabis industry has faced banking issues. Today more than half of the states in the U.S. are home to medical cannabis programs. However, this multibillion-dollar industry operates primarily in cash. This is because banks are federal entities and well – the federal government still holds an anti-cannabis stance. Luckily, this vital issue is finally getting the attention it deserves.
The SAFE Banking Act
A bipartisan bill designed to protect banks that service the marijuana industry from being penalized by federal regulators will get a vote in a key congressional committee on Tuesday. The bill has sponsorship from Representatives Ed Perlmutter, Steve Stivers, Warren Davidson, and Denny Heck and also has 138 co-sponsors which represents more than a quarter of the house.
All of this sets the stage for a potentially game-changing vote, as Republican leadership during the last Congress consistently blocked marijuana-related bills from even being considered. With Democrats in control and leading lawmakers embracing the legislation, it stands a good chance of heading to the full House and then on to the Senate.
There have been widespread calls to tackle the banking problem, including from members of Congress and representatives of cannabis businesses. With this vote, it seems those calls are starting to be answered.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Representative Maxine Waters is a chair member of the Committee on Financial Services, and before taking on her position, she spoke extensively about addressing financial related issues faced by the legal cannabis industry nationwide. Waters stated that the goal of the SAFE Banking Act, “ is to create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers for such businesses and for other purposes.”
Although The SAFE Banking Act has now been around for several years, the vote taking place is the first action ever to be taken on the bill. These actions by the House of Representatives could be the first step of many that could lead to the end of cannabis prohibition at the federal level, so be sure to keep your eyes on how this rolls out.