A major congressional committee is scheduled to vote on a series of bills on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that includes bipartisan legislation that would protect financial institutions from being penalized by federal regulators for working with marijuana businesses
The bill, introduced by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA), and cosponsored by nearly a third of the entire House, is seen by legalization advocates as the first of several pieces of cannabis legislation that the Democratic-controlled House will take up as the debate over broader marijuana reform continues on Capitol Hill.
The Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is meant to give banks reassurance that servicing cannabis businesses will not result in federal prosecution under existing money laundering or drug laws. While more financial institutions are accepting marijuana business accounts, others refuse to out of concern about the prospect of being punished, which leaves some businesses to operate on a cash-only basis that can make them targets of crime.
UPDATE: The House Financial Services Committee recessed on Tuesday evening and plans to take up the cannabis banking bill and other scheduled legislation on Wednesday morning.
The banking bill “addresses an urgent public safety concern for legitimate businesses that currently have no recourse but to operate with just cash,” Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said at the start of the committee meeting on Tuesday. “However, I also consider this bill as part of a holistic approach toward providing criminal justice reform to those who have been harmed by criminalization of marijuana and should not by any means be the only bill the House takes up on the important issue of cannabis reform.”
Last week, Republicans on the Financial Services Committee had requested that Waters delay the vote on the banking bill, writing in a letter that they had several “unanswered questions” about the measure.
“Some on my side support the measure as written. Many oppose it,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the panel’s top Republican, said at the meeting. “Most important for this committee, we need to ensure that we’re doing our due diligence before proceeding. One committee hearing is not enough to fully understand the consequences of this bill. It is a massive change in federal policy.”
Currently, the bill has 144 cosponsors, including 12 Republicans. That’s the most support that a standalone piece of marijuana legislation has ever received in Congress.
The committee held a hearing last month to discuss banking issues in the cannabis industry and the SAFE Banking Act specifically. There, lawmakers heard testimony about the need to change existing laws in the interest of transparency and public safety.
Since then, Perlmutter has floated an amendment, which he’s expected to introduce when the bill comes before the committee, that would require the government to study and issue recommendations about diversity in the cannabis market and expanding banking access for minority-owned and women-owned businesses, among other changes.
Lawmakers Press Treasury Official On Marijuana Business Banking Access
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