Despite cannabis now being decriminalized or even legal in some form or another in the majority of states, many banks and financial institutions are reluctant to do business with state-legal marijuana operations due to the plant’s federal status as a Schedule I controlled substance.
On Thursday, a key congressional committee voted to send an act that would ease those worries on to the House of Representatives for a vote — and if it becomes law, the impact of the act could extend far beyond your local dispensary.
The Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is designed to assure financial institutions that they won’t face federal charges such as money laundering for working with marijuana–related businesses.
After two days of debate and the consideration of multiple amendments, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45 to 15 Thursday morning to advance the act to the House of Representatives for a vote.
A date for that vote has not been scheduled, but if the House passes the legislation, it will then move on to the Senate.
“Our federal banking laws were designed to prevent illicit activity and help law enforcement do their jobs,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said in a statement, reported by NORML. “These laws need to be applied to legitimate marijuana businesses and employees in order to improve transparency and accountability and help root out illegal transactions.”
Perlmutter and other proponents of the SAFE Banking Act argue that financial institutions’ current reluctance to work with cannabis businesses isn’t just a matter of finances — because it forces many of the businesses to operate as cash-only, it makes both the businesses and their customers a worthwhile target for criminals.
“[T]he SAFE Banking Act will get cash off our streets, reducing the risk of violent crime and making our communities safer,” Perlmutter added in his statement. “While Congress has stuck its head in the sand on this issue for many years, this Committee showed leadership today and I want to thank my cosponsors and members of the Committee for their support.”