Congressional committee rejects SAFE Banking Act

Congressional committee rejects SAFE Banking Act

The SAFE Banking Act will not be included in a broader economic development package in Congress, striking a blow to efforts to make banking more accessible for cannabis businesses, according to reports

The bill passed the U.S. House last year with bipartisan support, including the support of three of Arkansas’s four congressmen. Rep. Bruce Westerman (4th District) was the only Arkansas congressman to vote against the bill. 

After passing the House last year, the bill was being considered in a conference committee, where it could have been added to the United States Innovation and Competition Act (also known as USICA or America COMPETES). 

The SAFE Banking Act has passed the U.S. House six times but has never passed the U.S. Senate. 

Arkansans React

The bill enjoyed support from the Arkansas cannabis industry and the state banking industry. 

Lorrie Trogden, president and CEO of the Arkansas Bankers Association, told Arkansas Cannabiz earlier this month that her organization supported the bill and was lobbying for it to stay in the broader America COMPETES bill. 

Today, Trogden encouraged Colorado Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter to continue his efforts to making banking easier for the cannabis industry: 

“Even though SAFE didn’t make it into COMPETES, it’s not over yet. Representative  Perlmutter has pledged to continue attaching it to other legislation – which he has been successful at thus far. The ABA will continue to advocate for SAFE’s passage to address the conflicts between federal and state law.”

Bill Paschall, executive director of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, offered this statement:

“The members of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association are disappointed that congressional conferees excluded the SAFE Banking Act from the America COMPETES Act.  Inclusion would have likely sped the passage of needed reform that would bring banking of the marijuana industry out of the shadows.  For years, bankers, marijuana growers and retailers and consumers have been calling for passage.  The House of Representatives has heard that call and now we urge those in the US Senate to make passage of the SAFE Banking Act an immediate priority.  With over forty states now allowing the sale of marijuana it is time for congress to take the chains off banks.”

None of Arkansas’s four congressmen returned a request for comment. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton did not return requests for comment, either. 

Rep. Rick Crawford (1st District) voted for the bill on the House floor last year and sat on the conference committee that ultimately did not include the bill in the America COMPETES bill.  

What’s next? 

While the SAFE Banking Act was dealt a blow, it might not be dead. 

Perlmutter, who has fought both Democrats and Republicans while championing the bill for many years, vowed to fight on. The eight-term congressman is retiring after this term and said in January that he was determined to pass the bill this year as he serves out the remainder of his time in office

Perlmutter’s office provided this statement from the congressman today: 

“The Senate continues to ignore the public safety risk of forcing cannabis businesses to deal in all cash. In the wake of the Senate’s inaction, people continue to be killed, businesses continue to be robbed, and employees and business owners in the cannabis industry continue to be excluded from the financial system. 

“I will continue to push for SAFE Banking to be included in COMPETES, other legislative vehicles, or for the Senate to finally take up the standalone version of the bill which has been sitting in the Senate for three and a half years.”

A story posted today on Politico said Democrats and cannabis-friendly Republicans are still trying to get a cannabis banking bill passed this year. The prospect of Republicans winning the House and possibly the Senate have made the matter more urgent to some elected officials, according to the report. Leaders of the effort could push for it to be passed this year or during the lame duck session following the November elections, the report stated. 

In a separate but related development yesterday, Rep. Troy A. Carter Sr. (D-Louisiana) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pennsylvania) introduced The Capital Lending and Investment for Marijuana Businesses Act (CLIMB Act). The bill has similar goals to the SAFE Banking Act, providing access to lending services and grants to state-legal cannabis businesses.