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Marijuana Banking Reform Cleared For House Floor (Again) Following Committee Action On Large-Scale Bill



The House of Representatives is set to vote once again on providing protections to banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, filed the text of his bill as amendment last week. On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee determined the proposal to be in order, meaning it will be taken up by the full House for consideration to be attached to large-scale legislation on research and innovation in the tech and manufacturing sectors that is advancing.

The floor vote is expected later this week. If approved, it would mark the sixth time that Perlmutter’s cannabis measure has advanced through the House in some form.

The congressman’s last attempt to get the reform enacted through a massive defense bill, it was attached to the House legislation only to be stripped out following bicameral negotiations. Perlmutter put much blame for that defeat on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who has insisted that comprehensive legalization, like a bill he’s expected to file soon, should move first before the incremental banking policy change.

On Tuesday, Perlmutter told the Rules Committee, of which he is a member, that he’s planning to offer the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment to “every single bill I possibly can until it’s passed” and he acknowledged that his colleagues are probably “becoming all too familiar with” the legislation in light of his repeated advocacy for it.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), the panel’s ranking member, chimed in to say that he supports the measure and looks forward to voting for it on the floor.

Along with Perlmutter, the cannabis financial services amendment is cosponsored by Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).

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Schumer, for his part, did say in a meeting with equity advocates last week that he’s open to passing cannabis banking reform if additional provisions were attached that specifically benefit communities most impacted by prohibition.

Still, stakeholders have grown impatient with the leader’s interference in passing the SAFE Banking Act given that it’s considered a passable, bipartisan bill, whereas comprehensive legalization does not have a clear path in the Senate, even with a slim Democratic majority.

Perlmutter, meanwhile, is retiring from Congress after this session and has emphasized that he’s committed to passing his bill first.

It remains to be seen whether the America COMPETES Act will serve as a more effective vehicle for the cannabis banking bill than the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), where the language was successfully attached on the House side but later removed following negotiations with the Senate.

Even some Republicans are scratching their heads about how Democrats have so far failed to pass the modest banking reform with majorities in both chambers and control of the White House. For example, Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized his Democratic colleagues over the issue last month.

In the interim, federal financial regulator Rodney Hood—a board member and former chairman of the federal National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)—recently said that marijuana legalization is not a question of “if” but “when,” and he’s again offering advice on how to navigate the federal-state conflict that has left many banks reluctant to work with cannabis businesses.

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