A bipartisan bill that would address banking issues in the marijuana industry was officially filed on Thursday.
The legislation—led by by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-O) and Warren Davidson (R-OH)—would shield financial institutions from being penalized by federal regulators for servicing cannabis and cannabis-adjacent businesses.
The bill, titled the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, explicitly stipulates that proceeds from transactions conducted by marijuana companies “shall not be considered as proceeds from an unlawful activity solely because the transaction was conducted by a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”
Nearly a quarter of the House, 108 members, has signed onto the bill as initial cosponsors, a spokesperson for Perlmutter told Marijuana Moment, and that includes nine Republicans. The last version, introduced in 2017, ended the 115th Congress with 95 cosponsors.
After the first-ever congressional hearing on #cannabis banking, I'm reintroducing the bipartisan #SAFEBanking Act to allow marijuana-related businesses access to the banking system. Congress needs to act to reduce risks for employees, businesses & communities across the country.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) March 7, 2019
Draft text of the bill was circulated last month ahead of the first marijuana hearing of the 116th Congress, which focused on how providing banking access to the cannabis industry can improve transparency and public safety.
Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new bill as filed below:
While the prior version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act didn’t advance to votes in the last Congress, advocates are optimistic about the prospect of actually passing the reform legislation this session.
“If Congress fails to act, we are discouraging responsible, regulated markets and allowing a serious public safety threat to go unaddressed,” Heck told Politico, which first reported on the bill’s formal reintroduction.
The congressman put the situation in starker terms during last month’s hearing before a House financial subcommittee, saying that the body has the power “to prevent murders and armed robberies,” referring to the fact that current policy forces many cannabis businesses to operate on a cash-only basis, which can make them targets.
“We must use it and we must use it now because we are already late,” he said.
“The SAFE Banking Act is an answer to the very real problem facing these businesses as they are forced to operate exclusively with cash. It makes them prime targets for violent robberies and money laundering schemes,” Stivers said in a press release. “This isn’t about condoning marijuana businesses, it’s about creating an auditable trail and keeping our neighborhoods safe.”
Today I introduced the SAFE Banking Act to allow the cannabis industry access to banking. The current system must be fixed to end this public safety issue. Add your name in support of the bill! https://t.co/khmr3Vjf9X
— Ed Perlmutter (@Ed4Colorado) March 8, 2019
“Government Regulators have deemed cannabis business owners to have certain reputational risks. From a civil liberties standpoint, I believe this is something we need to move away from,” Davidson added. “There are reputational risks associated with any small business, and barring legally recognized small businesses from our financial institutions threatens the very pillars of liberty and freedom our country was founded on.”
Passing marijuana banking reform could be the first in a series of more modest cannabis legislation that Congress will take up this session, with the ultimate goal of ending federal marijuana prohibition. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) outlined a congressional blueprint to legalization last year.