In a clear sign of the bipartisan support that marijuana reform enjoys in this Congress, more than half of Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in voting for of a bill on Monday to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses.
This is the fourth time that the chamber has cleared the proposal in some form since 2019. But as lawmakers move to enact broader legalization, this week’s vote serves as another signal that interest in changing federal marijuana laws—even if that’s through a more modest vehicle—is growing within Congress.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is the chief sponsor of the the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which cleared the body in a 321-101 vote, including 106 GOP members. He said following its passage that he was “thrilled to see overwhelming support once again” for “bipartisan, commonsense legislation.”
The bill passed by a vote of 321 to 101, including 106 Republicans. 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.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) April 19, 2021
Here’s an analysis on the latest House vote on the SAFE Banking Act:
Five members who voted on the bill the last time it was on the floor as standalone legislation changed their vote from “nay” to “yea,” compared to three who opposed the measure this round after supporting it in 2019.
“Nay” to “Yea” flips
- Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
- Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
- Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI)
- Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD)
- Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN)
“Yea” to “Nay” flips
- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
- Rep. Charles Fleishmann (R-TN)
- Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX)
Significantly more freshmen members of the House who didn’t have the chance to vote on the SAFE Banking Act three years ago voted in favor of the bill this week (46) compared those new lawmakers who voted against it (18). Among those freshman “yea” votes were 30 Republicans—another example of how the issue’s bipartisan nature seems to increase on a generational basis. As more younger members come into Congress, it stands to reason that support for marijuana reform across the board will continue to increase.
Eighteen former members of Congress who voted against the bill in 2019 have since left Congress. By contrast, 49 lawmakers who approved the legislation that year have since retired, lost their reelection bids or passed away. Four additional members who are still in Congress and voted “yea” last time did not participate in this year’s vote.
There were 53 legislators who voted against the proposal who represent states that either have adult-use marijuana markets or comprehensive medical cannabis programs. All of those members who effectively said that businesses run by constituents in their states don’t deserve access to bank accounts are Republicans. (The following analysis doesn’t include those states that have only limited or CBD-only programs.)
GOP members who voted “no” representing legal states:
- Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
- Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
- Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
- Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)
- Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
- Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)
- Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
- Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)
- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
- Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
- Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
- Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
- Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)
- Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)
- Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL)
- Rep. Scott Franklin (R-FL)
- Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL)
- Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL)
- Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
- Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA)
- Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)
- Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA)
- Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
- Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
- Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI)
- Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI)
- Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)
- Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN)
- Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)
- Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
- Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)
- Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)
- Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
- Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS)
- Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS)
- Rep. Matthew Rosendale (R-MT)
- Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
- Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM)
- Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
- Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH)
- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
- Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH)
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)
- Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)
- Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
- Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR)
- Rep. John Joyce (R-PA)
- Rep. Chris Steward (R-UT)
- Rep. Robert Whittman (R-VA)
- Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA)
- Rep. Bob Good (R-VA)
In 2019, there were 41 GOP members who opposed the SAFE Banking Act despite representing states with businesses and constituents who could benefit from the reform. The higher number this year isn’t a product of waning support as much as it is a reflection of how the successful legalization movement has continued to spread to more states.
But while it’s clear that the legislation is largely non-controversial this session, there are some political dynamics at play within the legalization movement that could affect whether the standalone legislation advances through the Senate and makes it to the president’s desk.
(For analysis on how the 2019 vote compared to 2014, when the House voted on a similar but more limited appropriations amendment aimed at preventing the Treasury Department from penalizing banks that service cannabis businesses, read more here).
A companion version of the bill was refiled in the Senate days after the House reintroduced it, and its sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said Congress can “start with the SAFE Banking Act” before enacting more comprehensive reform.
We’ve seen cannabis legalized or decriminalized across the country. But federal law still lags behind. It’s time to change that. We can start with the SAFE Banking Act to ensure cannabis businesses have access to the banking services they need. https://t.co/7rw49Zbrjn
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 20, 2021
That said, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Marijuana Moment on Monday that he’s concerned that passing the banking legislation first could undermine support for broader legislation that he’s working on to end federal cannabis prohibition. Instead, he reasoned, the protections for financial institutions should be incorporated into a federal legalization bill.
In any case, the banking vote in the House was a hot topic among lawmakers this week, with numerous members discussing the action on social media.
Legal marijuana businesses need access to the same banking services as other businesses.
I was glad to see the House pass the SAFE Banking Act last night, which I cosponsored in the Senate, to do just that.
It's high time that we make this fix for marijuana businesses.
— Senator Jacky Rosen (@SenJackyRosen) April 20, 2021
Cannabis biz are forced to operate with cash only which sometimes makes them vulnerable targets for violent criminals. Yesterday's passage of the #SAFEbankingAct will address this issue by creating a safe harbor that allows banks & CU to provide services to these biz. #SAFE420 pic.twitter.com/6utuFzuRex
— U.S. House Committee on Financial Services (@FSCDems) April 20, 2021
I’m thrilled to see overwhelming support once again for the #SAFEBankingAct, bipartisan, commonsense legislation to allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and regulatory structures to access the banking system.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) April 19, 2021
As a proud original co-sponsor of the, Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, I'm thrilled that it passed the House.
For years I've stood by the effort to allow business in states that have legalized cannabis to access the banking system, just like other businesses.
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) April 20, 2021
Most Americans live in states where some form of cannabis is legal—but because of outdated federal law, cannabis-related businesses are forced to operate in cash.
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) April 20, 2021
Today, the House passed the #SAFEBanking Act so that businesses in the 47 states where some form of marijuana is legal no longer have to operate cash only.
This is a step toward ending the failed war on drugs & bringing restorative justice to our Black and Brown communities.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 20, 2021
JUST IN: The House passed the SAFE Banking Act to provide marijuana businesses equal access to our banking system.
Colorado’s multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry employs thousands of people.
They should have the same security, and access to banking, as any other business.
— Rep. Diana DeGette (@RepDianaDeGette) April 19, 2021
Legal marijuana businesses in WA should be able to open bank accounts & take out loans just like every other business.
The House passed the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct today to make sure cannabis companies in WA are treated fairly & can grow their businesses.
— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) April 19, 2021
Cannabis is legal in Oregon and many other states, yet these businesses remain blocked from banking. I'm glad the House passed the #SAFEBanking Act to finally provide them access to our secure financial institutions so they no longer have to deal in cash.
— Suzanne Bonamici (@RepBonamici) April 20, 2021
Federal law treats any bank who works with ANY cannabis business as if they're a drug dealer, even if the business is in perfect compliance with state law.
— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) April 20, 2021
Yesterday the House passed the SAFE Banking Act – a bipartisan bill I co-sponsored to give legal cannabis-related businesses in WA and across the country the ability to access banking services – improving accountability, transparency, and public safety. https://t.co/77IZvxyssM
— Rep. Derek Kilmer (@RepDerekKilmer) April 20, 2021
The war on drugs is like many of the other forever wars that this Congress confronts: deeply unpopular in all parts of the country, except Washington D.C.https://t.co/M2QakKmKDQ
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 19, 2021
The #SAFEBanking Act is a bill that would reform federal cannabis laws to support the economic success of our farmers, local small businesses, and local financial institutions who are playing by the rules here in eastern CT. Proud to support this bill and vote on its passage. https://t.co/e7Cxg2scZp
— Rep. Joe Courtney (@RepJoeCourtney) April 20, 2021
BREAKING: I just voted for the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct to support Maine’s legal marijuana industry and ensure financial transactions are done through regulated institutions, not with bags of cash! pic.twitter.com/Dj448pkad4
— Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) April 19, 2021
Conflict between state & fed marijuana law means legal businesses are forced to operate as cash-only – creating a public safety concern and cutting them off from key tools & products offered by financial institutions.
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) April 19, 2021
In Nevada, legal businesses that directly or indirectly serve the cannabis industry have been shut out of the banking system.
I voted to pass the #SafeBanking Act to help bring federal financial laws into the 21st century.
— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) April 19, 2021
Today, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act.
I'm proud to have voted for this bill, which will:
💵 Support safe access to banking for the cannabis industry
🤝 Make the industry more diverse & inclusive
🏦 Improve safety for businesses, employees, and communities around them
— Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) April 19, 2021
Today I will vote in favor of the SAFE Banking Act.
Marijuana businesses in states that have legalized, like New Jersey, shouldn't be prevented from accessing the financial system because of archaic federal regulations that prevent banks from serving legal marijuana businesses.
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) April 19, 2021
Only Congress can provide the certainty financial institutions need to start banking cannabis-related legitimate businesses. #SAFEBanking
— Rep. Stacey Plaskett (@StaceyPlaskett) April 19, 2021
For those asking about ending the federal #cannabis ban completely: I cosponsored and voted for that in the last Congress, and I'll do so again when it's reintroduced in this Congress. https://t.co/jwo24FSfy3
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) April 19, 2021
Right now, legitimate cannabis-related businesses in Washington are often forced to operate on a cash-only basis, harming local business & increasing risks.
— Rep. Rick Larsen (@RepRickLarsen) April 19, 2021
Most states, including Oregon, have legalized some form of marijuana, but cannabis businesses are still forced to operate in cash-only. I voted to pass the bipartisan #SAFEBanking Act, so these legitimate businesses will finally be allowed access to financial services.
— Rep. Kurt Schrader (@RepSchrader) April 19, 2021
As an original cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, I am proud to vote for this #cannabis reform legislation that would allow marijuana-related businesses to access the banking system. The current cash-only situation puts our communities at risk.
— Congressman Dwight Evans (@RepDwightEvans) April 19, 2021
Proud to cosponsor and vote tonight for @Ed4Colorado’s SAFE Banking Act. Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to say marijuana should be legal, and now marijuana businesses need to be able to be able to safely use banks. Next: delist pot and help the victims of the War on Drugs!
— Andy Levin (@Andy_Levin) April 19, 2021
Legal cannabis businesses employ 250,000 Americans & generate billions in economic activity & taxes. But unlike other businesses, federal law prevents cannabis companies from accessing basic banking services. The Safe Banking Act protects these businesses and our communities. pic.twitter.com/37ELfgQaTU
— Rep. Lou Correa (@RepLouCorrea) April 19, 2021
Forcing legal, high-volume cannabis businesses in Colorado to operate as cash-only puts a target on their backs and our communities at risk.
— Rep. Jason Crow (@RepJasonCrow) April 20, 2021
97.7% of Americans live in states where some form of marijuana is legal, but many legal businesses serving the cannabis industry have been shut out of the banking system.
Tonight, I voted in favor of the #SAFEBankingAct to promote public safety and accountability.
— Rep. Haley Stevens (@RepHaleyStevens) April 20, 2021
It is unacceptable that banks and credit unions can face penalties for working with cannabis businesses in states where cannabis is legal. Last night, we passed the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct to fix this. https://t.co/dXZd8AwIRG
— Angie Craig (@RepAngieCraig) April 20, 2021
I voted for the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct so businesses involved in the cannabis industry (both directly and indirectly) can have access to bank accounts. This will help keep communities and businesses safe. pic.twitter.com/fSna6LKm8w
— Rep. John Larson (@RepJohnLarson) April 20, 2021
Yesterday, I voted for the SAFE Banking Act, which protects banks that provide financial services to cannabis-related businesses. These lawful businesses have as much a right to access the same financial services as other businesses. https://t.co/bD2YUDNloD
— Rep. Elaine Luria (@RepElaineLuria) April 20, 2021
I was proud to vote for the SAFE Banking Act which will ensure that banks can provide services to marijuana companies in states where it is legal. Adults age 21 and older in Virginia can possess and cultivate small amounts of the drug starting July 1.https://t.co/val4vAs9Sa
— Elaine Luria (@ElaineLuriaVA) April 21, 2021
Cannabis businesses shouldn’t be forced to only use cash, frozen out of the banking system.https://t.co/OEpKdxqGAQ
— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) April 21, 2021