DENVER – The U.S. House of Representatives again passed the SAFE Banking Act Monday in bipartisan fashion, a bill long sponsored by Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
All four of Colorado’s U.S. House members voted in favor of the measure. Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck voted against it, while Rep. Lauren Boebert did not vote.
In all, the bill passed the House in a 321-101 vote which included 106 Republicans voting for approval. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it has not previously received a hearing after getting House passage.
“After years of bringing up this issue, I’m thrilled to see overwhelming support for this bipartisan, commonsense legislation in the U.S. House once again. I feel optimistic about the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act and, more broadly, reforms to our federal cannabis laws,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “Congress needs to act in order to catch up with the will of the majority of voters across this county and to ensure we are reducing the public safety risk for our constituents and communities.”
When Perlmutter and his cosponsors introduced the bill in March, which would allow the cannabis industry to utilize the federal banking system, they said they were hopeful that it would have its best chances of passing the Senate this year, which is now controlled by Democrats because the 50-50 split could be broken by the vice president, who is a Democrat. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has also been more vocally supportive of cannabis legislation in recent years, including legalization on the federal level.
The Senate version of the SAFE Banking Act, sponsored by Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, currently has 32 cosponsors, including seven Republicans. Both Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., are also cosponsors.
Perlmutter said in March that the “chuckle factor” regarding his bill – which he has introduced every Congress since 2013 – was gone and said Congress was increasingly keen on addressing cannabis banking and financial regulations.
Forty-seven states have already legalized either recreational or medical marijuana programs, as has the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. But because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug that is illegal on the federal level, most cannabis businesses are not able to utilize banking accounts and have to operate with cash-only models.
That has made most banks cautious of working with the business over fears of ramifications from federal insurers and regulators.
Perlmutter has said the cash-only business can make cannabis businesses prime targets for robberies and burglaries and believes that integrating cannabis businesses with the banking system would inject an influx of cash into the U.S. economy, with the nation’s cannabis industry valued around $17 billion.
“No law abiding citizen should have to worry that they cannot have a bank account because of spoken or unspoken policies that banks will deny ‘those’ people,” said fellow cosponsor Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio. “I hope the Senate moves quickly to hold hearings and pass this bill, which has overwhelming bipartisan support.”
The bill also contains protections for the hemp and CBD markets, which face some of the same regulatory problems cannabis faces even though hemp is legal.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis led a letter earlier this week along with 20 other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands urging the SAFE Banking Act’s passage, saying the legislation would remove legal uncertainty for the industry.
“For more than a decade, Colorado has been a model of the success of these businesses and it’s well past time that we allow them to join our banking system. I want to thank Rep. Ed Perlmutter for his tireless efforts and years of dedication on this issue,” Polis said in a statement.