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Analysis: How This Week’s Marijuana Banking Vote Changed From Earlier 2019 House Action

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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.”

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.

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.

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