The House of Representatives has approved cannabis banking legislation for the fifth time. Will this be the year the Senate finally approves this legislation?
Overview. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is legislation that “would allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system.” Similar legislation has been approved four times before in the House, only to languish without action in the Senate.
As we previously discussed, legislation that might not succeed on its own often benefits when tied to a more popular bill. And few pieces of legislation enjoy the type of bipartisan support as each year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Accordingly, this time around, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) added the SAFE Banking Act to the NDAA for fiscal year 2022.
Although the SAFE Banking Act’s chances of passing in the Senate remain uncertain, Rep. Perlmutter remains optimistic the Senate will follow the House’s lead, stating he looks forward to “working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in the final NDAA.” As Rep. Perlmutter noted, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate, where it currently has bipartisan support from 39 Senators.
Our Take. Passage of the SAFE Banking Act should allow legal cannabis businesses to move on from only accepting cash, permitting them to have legal access to banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. The co-sponsors of the Senate legislation believe that passing the SAFE Banking Act would improve public safety and support small businesses, given the dangers of being forced to operate in an all-cash environment. As Rep. Perlmutter noted, “In Colorado, Travis Mason, a young father and Marine Corps Veteran, was murdered while working as a security guard for a cannabis business.”
However, until this or similar legislation is passed, cannabis-related businesses should consult early and often with attorneys well-versed in this subject matter whenever navigating the complex intersection of federal, state, and local laws.
 See https://www.merkley.senate.gov/news/press-releases/merkley-daines-lead-senate-introduction-of-bipartisan-legislation-to-ensure-that-legal-cannabis-businesses-arent-shut-out-of-critical-financial-services-2021.
Our Cannabis Practice provides advice on issues related to applicable federal and state law. Marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.