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Lawmakers And Advocates React To Historic House Passage Of Marijuana Banking Bill

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The House passed a standalone marijuana reform bill for the first time ever on Wednesday, and the development has sparked widespread excitement among lawmakers and advocates.

Following the chamber’s 321-103 passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, lots of members of Congress shared their support on Twitter and in press releases. The bill was approved by all but one Democrat and garnered support from nearly half of the chamber’s Republicans.

Here’s how lawmakers and advocates are reacting to the bill’s passage.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act: 

“Thousands of employees, businesses and communities across this country have been forced to deal in piles of cash because of the conflict between state and federal law. After six years of working on this bill, the SAFE Banking Act will go a long way in getting cash off our streets and providing certainty so financial institutions can work with cannabis businesses and employees. I appreciate the partnership of Reps. Heck, Stivers and Davidson and the input and support from several others including Chairwoman Waters for their help passing this bill in the House. I look forward to working with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and the entire Senate as they take up this important issue.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): 

“As the SAFE Banking Act now heads to the Senate, we can and we must do more. With this legislation, we can both address the pressing need for cannabis businesses to access financial institutions and provide real restorative justice for those most harmed by the failed War on Drugs. It’s simply not enough as it stands without reinvestment in communities most hurt by the failed drug war and while people of color are left to languish in federal prisons for marijuana-related offenses. Low-income Americans and communities of color have been devastated by the War on Drugs – we should be repairing the damage inflicted on these communities. The end we seek is not just legalization or access to financial institutions, it’s justice.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA):

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO): 

“The lack of access to banking services for marijuana businesses is a public safety issue in Colorado and across the country. This common-sense bill would allow our banking system to serve marijuana businesses the same way they serve any other legal places of business. I’m grateful to Congressman Perlmutter for his leadership in pushing this bill across the finish line. We will continue our efforts to move this bill in the Senate.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO):

“Today Congress began to take its head out of the sand and recognize that states are moving forward with their own cannabis policies and the federal government is holding them back. The conflicting federal and state marijuana laws make it difficult for legitimate businesses to use basic financial services, and this bipartisan legislation gets Washington out of the way and gives them the access they need to do business and pay taxes. Today’s historic action in the people’s House adds to the momentum the SAFE Banking Act gained following the Banking Committee’s hearing in July. The Senate should move forward with the SAFE Banking Act and deliver it to the President for his signature.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR):

“Forcing businesses to operate in cash is an invitation to crime, money laundering, and robbery. Whether you’re for or against legal cannabis, we can all agree that we want our communities to be safe from fraud and crime. Today we saw overwhelming support in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the SAFE Banking Act and get this common-sense fix into law. Now it’s time for the Senate to act. While we continue to work to address broader issues related to the harmful legacy of cannabis prohibition across the country, I am hopeful that we can get the SAFE Banking Act moving quickly through committee, to the Senate floor, and ultimately, to the President’s desk.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV):

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV):

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ):

“Not only will the SAFE Banking Act ensure that marijuana businesses operating legally are treated like any other legal small business when it comes to accessing essential banking products—including in New Jersey, which has taken bold steps to expand medical marijuana—I am pleased that the House-passed bill also includes key provisions of my CLAIM Act to allow these business owners to obtain insurance coverage so they can protect their property, employees and customers. I would urge the full Senate to pass this common sense legislation that levels the playing field in the banking space by ensuring more equal access to capital.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): 

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA): 

Rep. Don Young (R-AK):

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA): 

Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA): 

“Today’s passage of the SAFE Banking Act is a major milestone. When we began this journey over six years ago, we knew that the changes in state laws around cannabis meant that the federal government would have to act to address public safety. Time kept passing, even as the bill did not, and that confirmed the need for this legislation. More and more states changed their laws with regard to marijuana, and the need to get cash off the streets kept growing.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL):

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR): 

“Today’s vote is historic. The House of Representatives took the most significant step thus far in addressing our outdated and out-of-touch federal cannabis laws. It never made any sense to deny state legal cannabis businesses access to banking services. It not only seriously disadvantaged these businesses, but it also was an open invitation to theft, tax evasion, and money laundering. Congressmen Perlmutter and Heck have fought tirelessly to bring their bill to the floor, and I applaud Chairwoman Waters and House leadership for their support. States have outpaced the federal government on this issue, and state-legal cannabis industries and their employees have suffered. There is much more to be done to end this senseless prohibition. This is just the beginning.”

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY): 

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN):

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR):

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT):

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN):

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME):

Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA):

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL):

Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK):

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL): 

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM): 

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO): 

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV): 

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA): 

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL):

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI): 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): 

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA): 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA): 

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA):

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA):

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH): 

“The current federal approach to cannabis policy not only infringes on the rights of states to implement their own laws (as the vast majority have done), but also hurts legitimate businesses. Currently, cannabis companies are not afforded the same access to financial services as every other legal business in our country. With banks refusing to accept their money out of fear of federal forfeiture or regulatory retaliation, these businesses are forced to operate in all-cash ¾ pay their workers in cash, store cash in vaults on-site, hire armored trucks to transport cash to pay taxes ¾ which makes this a public safety issue.”

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA): 

Rep. Katerine Clark (D-MA):

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA):

Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX): 

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH): 

“The SAFE Banking Act defends civil liberties. Passing this bill keeps the right perspective: No federal regulator should block Americans’ lawful access to the financial system. This principle holds true, whether you are talking about firearms or cannabis. I was an original cosponsor of this bill and welcome its passage. It is incumbent on the Senate to join the House and accomplish this important legislative task.”

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV):

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA):

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA):

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV):

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO): 

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI):

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA):

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH): 

“Today is a step forward for a common-sense bill that will make communities across the country safer. For me this has nothing to do with the larger debate about marijuana, instead it’s about legislating for the world we live in, and that reality includes legal businesses being forced to assume the huge risks that come from operating exclusively in cash. I’m grateful that my colleagues, especially Representatives Perlmutter, Heck, and Davidson, have seen the importance of providing access to our banking system, and I look forward to the SAFE Banking Act passing the Senate and being signed into law.”

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR): 

Rep. Mark Amondei (R-NV): 

 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D):

“This is an important step in building an accessible, inclusive and socially diverse industry that recognizes the past harms of marijuana prohibition and the disproportionate impact laws governing marijuana have had on communities of color. I commend all the members of the New York Congressional delegation who supported this bill for honoring the laws of the states that are working to safely and fairly legalize and regulate cannabis. It is now time for the Senate to recognize the importance of this emerging sector of our economy and pass the bill immediately.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D): 

Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D):

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D):

Illinois Treasurer Michael Freichs (D):

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): 

“The SAFE Banking Act will make our communities safer, allow state and local governments to collect taxes more efficiently and transparently, and increase access to capital for small businesses. Today’s vote is a signal that Washington is beginning to catch up with the states and the fastest growing industry in our country.”

Law Enforcement Action Partnership: 

“Prohibiting banking access means hundreds of millions of dollars in legal marijuana markets are exchanged in cash rather than with credit or debit cards, which make them more difficult to track. Keeping tabs on those transactions is part of how police are able to catch serious criminals, but our ability to do that right now is limited. The longer we wait to fix this, the more vulnerable the industry becomes to infiltration by organized crime.”

American Bankers Association: 

“Today’s overwhelming, bipartisan House vote in support of the SAFE Banking Act is a significant step forward for public safety, transparency and common sense. By helping to provide clarity for the financial sector in those states where cannabis is legal, this bill will help banks meet the needs of their communities while reducing cash-motivated crimes, increasing the efficiency of tax collections and improving the cannabis industry’s financial accountability. It will also ensure that businesses with indirect ties to the cannabis industry—including vendors, utility companies and law firms—won’t be needlessly forced out of the financial system.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried: 

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Vanita Gupta: 

“The failed War on Drugs policies have disproportionately impacted communities of color – particularly African Americans, Latinos, and those who are economically vulnerable. These policies have contributed directly to mass incarceration. The SAFE Banking Act does not holistically repair the current harms posed by prohibition, nor does it invest in communities directly impacted by discriminatory criminalization. We urge the Senate to include provisions in its bill that will forge a more equitable path for communities that remain excluded from the booming marijuana industry. We thank Leader Hoyer and Chairs Nadler and Waters for their commitment to ensuring that the House takes up a comprehensive, broad, and bold approach to marijuana reform. We implore the Senate to follow their lead.”

Center for American Progress Senior Policy Analyst Maritza Perez: 

“Today’s vote may be a release valve for financial institutions, but it does nothing to relieve the decades of harm caused to communities of color affected by the drug war. Following today’s vote, we call on Congress to collectively turn its efforts to equitable marijuana legislation that should include removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and making way for the expungement and resentencing of marijuana convictions. Congress must also consider using marijuana tax revenue to bring services to communities most affected by the drug war, as well as grant programs supporting underrepresented business owners in the cannabis industry as modeled in the MORE Act. Congress has the opportunity to pass comprehensive marijuana legislation that leads with social justice and equity with the MORE Act. We urge Chairman Nadler and House leadership to promptly mark up the MORE Act and bring it to the floor for a vote.”

Veterans Cannabis Project Executive Director Doug Distaso:

“Today’s historic House passage of the SAFE Banking Act is an important first step toward eliminating the stigma around an industry that is providing essential medical treatment options for veterans. This legislation will ensure protections for veterans’ GI Bill benefits and allow them to seek well-paying jobs in a rapidly growing industry. I will be working diligently with my fellow veterans in the coming weeks to ensure the Senate understands the positive impact that cannabis has on veterans’ lives. As service members return with issues ranging from chronic pain to PTSD, many are finding cannabis is a treatment option that improves their quality of life and reduces their symptoms, without the negative side effects of opiates and other prescriptions.”

The Arcview Group CEO Troy Dayton:

“We are extremely encouraged by these cannabis reforms passed by the House. It would be a game changer for this developing industry and we are hopeful that the Senate follows suit. Legal cannabis businesses, which employ more than 165,000 people, would finally be able to operate safely, develop and grow their businesses. This step forward begins to pave the way for legal, regulated cannabis businesses to open up a plethora of opportunities, which were previously unavailable. The measure would also have a profound, positive impact on the investment landscape, patients and consumers. For years, Arcview has been working towards and supporting this moment. We applaud the progress taken by our regulators and industry and look forward to more reforms being fully enacted.”

Credit Union National Association President Jim Nussle: 

“Today’s landmark vote will help credit unions keep communities across the country safe and serve those state-legalized businesses previously left in the lurch. We offer our congratulations and appreciation to Representatives Perlmutter, Heck, Stivers, Davidson and others who have worked on this critical issue for so long. Our work is not done: We are ready to work in the Senate to advance legislation on this issue to the President’s desk.”

Independent Community Bankers of America President Rebeca Romero Rainey: 

“The conflict between state and federal law on cannabis-related businesses has created significant legal and compliance concerns for financial institutions that could provide needed banking services to these companies. This uncertainty has forced cannabis-related businesses to operate mostly in cash, which presents a significant public safety risk. The bipartisan SAFE Banking Act would help eliminate this risk in states where cannabis is already legal.”

House Approves Marijuana Banking Bill In Historic Vote

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Trade Associations And Civil Rights Groups Send Mixed Messages On Marijuana Banking To Senate

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A coalition of trade associations sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee leadership on Thursday, urging a vote on legislation to protect financial institutions that service state-legal marijuana businesses.

But those senators are also feeling pressure from leading civil rights groups like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, which sent an earlier letter insisting that they not allow cannabis banking to detract from more comprehensive reform that addresses social equity.

The organizations involved in the latest letter—including the American Bankers Association and Credit Union National Association—said that advancing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act or similar legislation is pivotal to ensuring that stakeholders receive needed clarity and are shielded from being penalized by federal regulators.

The letter, addressed to Banking Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), emphasized the bipartisan nature of the House passage of the bill in September and the growing movement at the state level to legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.

“Our organizations support an initial legislative step that allows the legal cannabis industry into the banking system,” the groups, which also include the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, International Council of Shopping Centers and National Association of REALTORS, wrote. “Ultimately, protecting law-abiding financial institutions and ancillary businesses from their currently untenable position and addressing increasing public safety concerns.”

As more states reform their marijuana laws, however, “distribution, sale, possession, research, transaction, housing, employment, and a broader landscape of cannabis is becoming increasingly problematic” for stakeholders under federal prohibition.

“Ultimately, this creates more legal and security concerns that impact the operations and safety of businesses and consumers,” they said. “Finally, the lack of an available safe harbor for cannabis will continue to challenge the full adoption and deployment of the legal hemp and CBD products market in the U.S. due to the inextricable link between hemp and cannabis.”

“To resolve this, we urge the Committee to vote on the SAFE Banking Act or similar measures. Such measures are meant to create a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to businesses in a state permitting the use of cannabis. A safe harbor will enable law enforcement and states to effectively monitor and regulate businesses while simultaneously bringing billions into the regulated banking sector.”

The letter, also signed by Americans for Prosperity and R Street, recognizes that creating a federal regulatory scheme for marijuana will take time but says that the SAFE Banking Act represents “a critical first step to ensure that legal cannabis marketplaces are safe, legal, and transparent.”

Crapo has said that he’s interested in holding a vote on resolving the cannabis banking issue in his panel before the year’s end, but so far nothing has been scheduled. The chairman told Marijuana Moment in earlier interviews that there are several changes to the House-passed bill that he’d like to see but that he’s worried impeachment proceedings against the president will interfere with plans to hold a vote.

All that said, pressure from civil rights advocacy groups could complicate congressional efforts to get the banking bill approved. In October, several organizations including the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch and Center for American Progress sent a letter to Senate leadership, as well as Crapo and Brown, demanding that “marijuana legislation considered in the Senate include provisions that will guarantee equity in the industry.”

The letter, which doesn’t appear to have been previously reported and was obtained by Marijuana Moment, states that while the coalition agrees the SAFE Banking Act “is an incremental step toward rolling back the federal prohibition of marijuana, it fails to help communities that have been historically and disproportionately devastated by United States’ punitive drug laws.”

“As the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs considers similar legislation, we insist that the legislation include provisions that ensure equity in the marijuana industry by creating opportunities for individuals who have been prohibited from this growing business either by legal or financial means,” the letter, which was also signed by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and National Association of Social Workers, states.

“Indeed, this Congress has shown it understands the economic impact of legalization. But while progress on the business side of legalization is promising, it is not sufficient. Federal marijuana legislation must be comprehensive and lead with equity, addressing past and current harms to communities of color and low-income communities who bore the brunt of the failed war on drugs. We demand that any marijuana reform or legalization bill considered by the Senate] include robust provisions addressing equity. More than simply adding equity provisions to bills that address industry concerns, we need comprehensive reform that deschedules marijuana and addresses the inequities and harms continually inflicted by the failed war on drugs.”

In other words, the groups are insisting on broad reform prior to a vote on a bill viewed as largely beneficial to the cannabis industry—similar to a request they made of House members prior to the legislation’s passage in the chamber.

Read the marijuana banking letters from the trade associations and civil rights groups below:

Industry SAFE Senate Bankin… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Senate Leadership Letter Re… by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Senators Demand Update From DEA On Marijuana Growing Applications

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GOP Congressman Knocks His Party For Failing To Pass Marijuana Reform

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A Republican congressman says that whichever party is responsible for passing federal marijuana reform will “instantly” shoot up in the polls, while lamenting the fact that the GOP failed to do so when they controlled the House.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a vocal advocate for hemp, was asked by Fox Business host Kennedy on Wednesday whether cannabis should be rescheduled under federal law.

“Absolutely,” he said. “The first party that does this—and I don’t understand why either party won’t do it—is going instantly gain 10 points in the general poll on which party versus the other.”

“We should have done it when we were in the majority,” he added. “The liberals should be asking Pelosi why she hasn’t put it on the floor yet.”

The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation last month to end federal marijuana prohibition, but it hasn’t yet been scheduled for floor action.

Massie made similar points during an interview with Marijuana Moment earlier this year, stating that if Republicans had advanced states’ rights-focused marijuana legislation, “I think we might still be in the majority.”

Of course, while Massie has supported legislation to allow states to set their own cannabis policies without federal intervention, as well as other more modest reform measures such as protecting banks that service marijuana businesses, he’s so far declined to cosponsor any bills that seek to deschedule cannabis.

The congressman has also expressed interest in changing federal gun control laws to allow cannabis consumers to purchase firearms.

Though it’s not clear exactly how much of a boost either party would get by passing a marijuana reform bill, a Pew poll released last month does show that there’s majority support for legalization among those who lean Republican (55 percent) as well those who lean Democratic (78 percent).

Senators Demand Update From DEA On Marijuana Growing Applications

Photo courtesy of YouTube/Rep. Massie.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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State Department Warns Travelers About Flying With Cannabis Oil Internationally

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The U.S. State Department is warning international holiday travelers that while hemp-derived CBD might be legal in the U.S., it can land you in trouble if you take it certain places abroad.

“Make sure your gift isn’t a fa la la la la la la la la fail,” the department said in a tweet on Thursday. “Bringing along gifts like drones, CBD oils, and firearms can land you in trouble in foreign countries. Research what is and isn’t allowed before you travel.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

MLB Officially Removes Marijuana From Banned Substances List For Baseball Players

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