SAFE Banking Act Passes Once Again in the U.S. House of Representatives with Overwhelming, Bipartisan Support

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives once again passed H.R. 1996, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021, landmark legislation to reform federal cannabis laws and reduce the public safety risk in communities across the country. Authored by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), sponsored by Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), and Warren Davidson (R-OH-08), and cosponsored by 180 members, the bill would allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system. The bill passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support by a vote of 321 to 101, including 106 Republicans.

Forty-seven states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia – representing 97.7 % of the U.S. population – have legalized some form of recreational or medical marijuana, including CBD. Yet current law restricts legitimate licensed marijuana businesses from accessing banking services and products, such as depository and checking accounts, resulting in businesses operating in all cash. This is a serious public safety risk for communities, inviting theft, robberies, and burglaries. An innocent bystander was shot just last week at a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs, Colorado during an attempted burglary. Additionally, Colorado saw the murder of Travis Mason in June 2016 and Michael Arthur in Portland, Oregon in December 2020.

In the 116th Congress, the SAFE Banking Act passed the U.S. House with a broad bipartisan vote of 321 to 103, with 91 Republicans and one Independent voting in support. The bill also passed as part of the Heroes Act, an earlier COVID relief package which was approved by the House on two separate occasions in 2020.

“After years of bringing up this issue, I’m thrilled to see overwhelming support for this bipartisan, commonsense legislation in the U.S. House once again. I feel optimistic about the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act and, more broadly, reforms to our federal cannabis laws,” said Perlmutter. “Congress needs to act in order to catch up with the will of the majority of voters across this county and to ensure we are reducing the public safety risk for our constituents and communities. Thank you to Reps. Velázquez, Stivers and Davidson for their partnership, and I look forward to working with Senators Merkley and Daines to get the SAFE Banking Act passed in the Senate and signed into law.”

“As a proud original cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, I am thrilled this bill has passed the House and applaud Congressman Perlmutter for his leadership,” said Velázquez. “This bill would finally allow business in states that have legalized cannabis to access to the banking system, just as any other business currently enjoys. Doing so will help create jobs in communities throughout America, while stimulating the economy as we recover from the fallout of the pandemic.”  

“Today, 320 of my colleagues recognized the importance of legal businesses having access to the banking system.  This bill is not about being for or against marijuana, but rather being for the safety and wellbeing of our communities,” said Stivers. “I’m grateful for Representative Perlmutter’s continued leadership on this issue, and look forward to seeing this bill signed into law.”

“I am pleased to see continued support for SAFE Banking in the 117th Congress. When this bill becomes law, it will help to ensure that all legal businesses have access to our financial system. For too long, practices like red-lining have denied Americans equal access to the banking system,” said Davidson. “No law abiding citizen should have to worry that they cannot have a bank account because of spoken or unspoken policies that banks will deny ‘those’ people. I hope the Senate moves quickly to hold hearings and pass this bill, which has overwhelming bipartisan support.”

The SAFE Banking Act provides protections from money laundering laws for any proceeds derived from these state-legal marijuana businesses. This will get cash off the streets and into the financial system which is built to root out fraud and illicit activity. This bill also includes protections for hemp and hemp-derived CBD related businesses, which still struggle in accessing financial services despite the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. The current version of the bill has been updated slightly to include minor technical changes to the safe harbor, strengthened hemp provisions, and other technical updates.

The U.S. cannabis industry continues to grow at a rapid rate, with the current value estimated at $17.7 billion, a substantial amount of which remains unbanked. As of January 2021, the legal cannabis industry supports 321,000 jobs across the country. Over the 2018-2028 period, job growth in this market is projected to climb 250%, the fastest rate for any sector in the U.S. Bringing in this cash will make the industry safer and give banks and credit unions more capital to lend during the economic recovery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, Senators Merkley and Daines introduced the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate with nearly a third of the chamber supporting the bill.

The SAFE Banking Act of 2021 is supported by a wide variety of organizations, including the recent endorsement of the National Association of State Treasurers and Governors from 21 states and territories. See the full list of supporters and additional background information at here

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