Members of the Senate Banking Committee have approved the SAFER Banking Act, paving the way for its final vote in the Senate, which would be a major step forward for the U.S. cannabis industry.
The recently updated legislation – formerly known as SAFE Banking Act – would transform the cannabis industry in the United States.
While the bill has been under discussion for ten years, it was first introduced as a standalone bill in 2019, encountering a number of blockages. It was later attached to the Authorization Act of National Defense (NDAA) to pass as an emergency bill during the COVID-19 pandemic, before being withdrawn and never passing the Senate.
The long-awaited law would provide cannabis businesses with access to essential banking services, preventing banking regulators from penalizing banks that provide services to cannabis businesses, preventing cannabis businesses’ revenue from being subject to to money laundering laws and allowing cannabis businesses to obtain loans and financial services.
Additionally, it would free businesses from having to operate on a cash-only basis, a problem that has hampered the sector for years and has seen businesses subject to armed robberies.
Last week, the SAFER Act underwent a number of significant amendments before being submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
The bill passed 14-9, and the bipartisan support it enjoys sets the stage for its vote in the Senate, which, for the first time, will vote on cannabis legislation.
In a statement to members, cannabis reform group NORML commented: “Similar bills have already passed the House of Representatives seven times, but this is the first time the Senate has passed legislation to protecting cannabis consumers and licensed suppliers from the threat of violent theft, while providing access to the financial services that small cannabis businesses desperately need to survive and thrive in the face of unregulated operators and massive corporate interests. »
Rob Nichols, President and CEO of the American Banking Association, said, “We commend the Senate Banking Committee for advancing the SAFER Banking Act and thank Senators Brown, Merkley, Daines, Schumer, Sinema, Lummis and Cramer, along with the other cosponsors, for their leadership. »
“This urgently needed, bipartisan legislation will resolve the current conflict between state and federal laws so that banks can serve state-licensed cannabis and cannabis-related businesses, while improving public safety, tax collection and financial transparency. The status quo is simply untenable for consumers, small businesses and banks operating in states where cannabis is legal. »
“Based on today’s bipartisan vote, we urge the full Senate to expeditiously consider this bill. »
After passing the Senate committee, the SAFER Banking Act will be submitted to the Senate and the House of Representatives for further debate, amendments and votes.