The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is a bipartisan marijuana banking bill that has been gaining traction again in Congress. The bill, which would provide desperately needed financial services to the cannabis industry, had been expected to receive a Senate committee markup sometime this summer.
However, Lobbyist Don Murphy of the Marijuana Leadership Campaign said that he spoke with the Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), first reported by Marijuana Moment, that it looks like that will not happen before recess starts on July 31st.
This news comes as an unfortunate setback for advocates and stakeholders who have long been calling for safe access to banking services for the cannabis industry. It also highlights the continuing difficulty lawmakers face when attempting to pass cannabis legislation, despite widespread public support for reform efforts. With the summer session quickly coming to an end, it looks increasingly unlikely that a vote on the SAFE Banking Act will take place in the near future.
Explanation of Why Vote Unlikely This Summer
The primary reason why the SAFE Banking Act has yet to receive a Senate committee markup is due to a lack of action by the Senate Banking Committee. Chairman Brown had previously indicated that he hoped to hold a markup of the bill “in the next two or three weeks,” but this timeline has yet to be met. It appears there are still some disagreements among lawmakers over one section 10 of the bill that concerns broader banking regulations.
Certain Democrats like Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) have pushed to remove or alter Section 10, causing tension between those in favor and those opposed to such changes. The Republican sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), has also said Republicans are ready to act on the bill as introduced, making it difficult to reach a consensus.
A spokesperson for Daines told Marijuana Moment that “talks are continuing and we remain hopeful,” but with just a few days remaining in the summer session, it looks increasingly unlikely that an agreement can be reached in time for a vote this July.”
Unsurprisingly, stakeholders have expressed disappointment with the likely delay of a Senate vote on the SAFE Banking Act. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), the lead sponsor of the House version of the bill, told Marijuana Moment that his chamber “has passed the SAFE Banking Act seven times with strong bipartisan support.”
“I am disappointed to see continued delays in the upper chamber and strongly encourage my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly on this critical legislation,”
Importance of the SAFE Banking Act
The SAFE Banking Act would provide legal cannabis businesses with the financial services they need to operate as a typical functioning company.
Currently, most marijuana businesses are unable to access banking services due to their industry being federally illegal, leading to them having to operate on a cash-only basis. This has created an array of problems, from increased security risks and difficulties tracking profits and losses for taxes to making it difficult for investors to participate in funding opportunities.
By providing legal protection for financial institutions that serve cannabis businesses, the SAFE Banking Act would allow these companies access to much-needed banking services just like any other business.
This could open up new opportunities, such as loans and lines of credit, so businesses can expand and grow their operations. It could also help give banks the confidence to provide other services, such as payroll and accounts receivable, making running a cannabis business much easier and more efficient.
Though there were initially high hopes for a summertime vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, it looks increasingly unlikely that a vote will happen before Senate recess starts on July 31st. Hopefully, the Senate can address the SAFE Banking Act when they meet back in September.
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