Both parties have reintroduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bill that the cannabis sector considers vital for financial stability. The legislation is set to appear before the Senate Banking Committee, marking a crucial step towards the first-ever Senate vote on the measure. The bipartisan proposal aims to provide legal cannabis businesses with access to essential banking and financial services.
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Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, discussed the SAFE Banking Act during a press conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., on September 14, 2022. The reintroduction of the SAFE Banking Act by a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and Senate follows its stagnation in the previous Congress.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the bill, which has been revised since the last session. If the banking and financial safeguards pass through the committees, the Senate could vote on the bill for the first time. The legislation has consistently received strong bipartisan support and has passed the House on seven occasions.
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Sen. Merkley expressed optimism for the bill’s progress in 2023, stating that it now has a pathway through the Senate Banking Committee and a Senate floor vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also endorsed the legislation, pledging to ensure that it encompasses criminal justice provisions when it reaches the Senate floor.
Cannabis stocks such as Curaleaf Holdings, Trulieve Cannabis Corp, and Terrascend Corp experienced double-digit percentage increases following the SAFE Banking Act’s bipartisan reintroduction. The legislation is expected to offer significant relief to cannabis businesses and serve as a foundation for more comprehensive reforms.
Current federal law places banks and credit unions at risk of prosecution and penalties if they offer services to legal cannabis companies, as cannabis remains a Schedule I substance. Consequently, state-legal cannabis businesses must operate solely in cash, creating potential issues such as robbery, money laundering, and organized crime. Rep. Blumenauer emphasized that the SAFE Banking Act’s implementation is crucial for addressing the “irrational, unfair, and unsafe prohibition of basic banking services” for state-legal cannabis businesses.