It’s back: Congressman pushes SAFE Banking Act as defense measure

It’s back: Congressman pushes SAFE Banking Act as defense measure



It’s back. 

The SAFE Banking Act, the cannabis banking legislation that won’t die, has been introduced again by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) after a congressional committee left it out of a broad economic development package last month

This time, Perlmutter is trying to get the bill added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. 

How is this a defense bill, you ask? Perlmutter says many veterans use cannabis to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and anxiety. The retiring Colorado congressman also points out that a Marine Corps veteran was killed while working security in a Colorado dispensary. Perlmutter has the support of 14 veteran service organizations, according to a press release. 

Here’s an explainer on the SAFE Banking Act

Last month, U.S. Rep. Troy A. Carter Sr. (D-Louisiana) and U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pennsylvania) introduced a separate cannabis banking bill called the Capital Lending and Investment in Marijuana Businesses Act (CLIMB Act)

From a press release:

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) pushes forward once again in his effort to allow state-legal cannabis businesses access to the banking system by filing the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This follows a years-long effort to include the SAFE Banking Act to broader pieces of legislation, most recently the negotiated Bipartisan Innovation Act package and the FY22 NDAA.

“As I’ve repeatedly said, I will pursue any and all legislative avenues to get SAFE Banking across the finish line this year. We have a critical window of opportunity between now and the end of the year to enact common sense cannabis reforms starting with access to the banking system. Continued inaction on this issue is dangerous and neglectful, and continues to put communities, businesses, employees and patients at risk across this country,” said Congressman Perlmutter.

The latest legislative action comes as fourteen Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) endorse the SAFE Banking Act. Calling for “earliest passage and enactment”, the organizations voice their support of the legislation in order to “substantially improve the health and safety of America’s veterans, especially those who prescribed cannabis for behavioral health issues related to their military service.” Click here to read the full letter.

A lack of banking services continues to create roadblocks for veteran small business owners and other minority small business owners in the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry employs and serves a growing number of veterans but because cannabis businesses are forced to conduct businesses in all cash transactions, cannabis employees, patients and customers often become targets for criminals. In 2016, Travis Mason, a young father and Marine Corps veteran, was murdered while working as a security guard for a cannabis business in Aurora, Colo.

In addition, many veterans use medical cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, anxiety and other combat wounds or disorders. However, medical cannabis dispensaries face the same banking challenges and consequent dangers of working in a cash-only system.

“For many service-disabled veterans, cannabinoids are the only things that work in treating the unique mental health and physical disorders they suffer and giving them relief from chronic pain as well.  Current health care providers have no problem prescribing these veterans enough pain management opioids and antipsychotics to fell a horse, and our banking system supports that fully.  But prescribing a disabled veteran medical cannabis reduces opioid prescribing, opioid use, and overdoses.  What’s standing in the way of greater use of cannabis by disabled veterans?  Archaic banking rules which criminalize perfectly legal business and medical transactions under State law,” Ken Greenberg of Jewish War Veterans pointed out.

“Our 14 veteran serving and veteran-cannabis organizations endorse the SAFE Banking Act and plead for its quickest adoption.” said Bob Carey of the National Defense Committee. “We have an epidemic of veteran mental health issues, suicides, and opioid overdoses. Cannabis helps these veterans. But because of wrong-headed banking rules which force these veterans and the legal business that serve them to conduct all transactions by cash, we place the veterans and businesses at risk of being robbed, assaulted, and even killed. We are doing a great disservice to our veterans by forcing them into these unsafe conditions simply because they want to treat their disabilities with the best treatment they know.”

“The call to serve should be backed by service and support when the troops come home. Offering SAFE in the NDAA is a matter of national security and preparedness and a reflection of our country’s strength. SAFE would help the tens of thousands of veterans who already work in the cannabis industry and protect the millions of others who are turning to it for therapeutic options and future employment opportunities. The SAFE Banking Act is a critical first step that would help small, veteran-owned businesses like mine and unleash the healing power of cannabis for suffering veterans and chronically ill patients,” said Gary Hess, Founder and CEO of the Veterans Alliance for Holistic Alternatives, a veterans resource and advocacy organization. 

Earlier this month, SAFE Banking was stripped from the conference agreement of the Bipartisan Innovation Act currently being negotiated despite overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral support for the legislation. Last year, Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking amendment was adopted by voice vote to the FY22 NDAA in the House before Senate leaders stripped the SAFE Banking Act from the final FY22 NDAA.

Cosponsors of the SAFE Banking amendment to the FY23 NDAA are Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Earl Blumenauer(D-OR), David Joyce (R-OH), and Barbara Lee (D-CA).

The 14 Veteran Service Organizations who signed letter of support include: The Independence Fund; Healing Household 6; National Defense Committee; Jewish War Veterans; Non Commissioned Officers Association; Vietnam Veterans of America; American Veterans (AMVETS); Military Order of the Purple Heart; VetsFirst/United Spinal Association; Armed Forces Retirees Association; Chief Warrant Officer and Chief Petty Officer; Association of the US Coast Guard; Veterans Cannabis Group; Brothers Mark – Cannabis for Veterans; and Heroes Athletic Association.