The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in a 322-103 vote.
The legislation, H.R. 1595, would allow marijuana businesses to gain access to the banking system without fear of federal interference. It was the first standalone cannabis reform bill brought before the House for a vote and it succeeded with an overwhelming majority.
Democrats voted 229-1, while Republicans voted 91-102 and the independent member of the House gave it the thumbs-up.
It now heads to the Senate and Mike Crapo, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has pledged to spearhead the move to further banking reform in that chamber. If the SAFE Banking Act becomes law, it would go a long way towards legitimizing the U.S. cannabis industry.
The news caused pot stocks to head higher, and the industry welcomed the House’s decision. Lindsay Robinson, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, called it a victory for cannabis consumers across the country.
“Cannabis in California is one of the most regulated industries in the world, but a lack of traditional banking services has endangered California communities given the risks posed by large amounts of cash flowing through cannabis businesses,” she said.
Marijuana remains illegal for both medicinal and recreational purposes at a federal level, despite more than half of all states legalizing it. That prevents dispensaries, producers, and distributors from banking their money, leaving them reliant on cash.
This situation makes the industry vulnerable to violent and white-collar crime, while it prevents the states from gaining their fair share of revenue tax.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, the lead sponsor of H.R. 1595, said the bill is about public safety, getting cash off the streets and protecting states’ rights. Rep. Earl Blumenaur pointed out that marijuana is an $11 billion industry and growing all the time, urging his colleagues to step up and end the current situation.
There was heated debate, but in the end the SAFE Banking Act gained a strong majority. The time of Congressional inactivity is over and the cannabis industry is coming out of the shadows for the financial services sector.
Critics argued that it would help large cannabis companies run roughshod over small, minority-owned business, and others were disappointed to see it passing without any mention of marijuana’s ongoing status as an illegal drug at federal level.