SAFE Banking passes House after Arkansas congressmen oppose amendment

SAFE Banking passes House after Arkansas congressmen oppose amendment

The SAFE Banking Act passed the U.S. House Thursday as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and now heads to the U.S. Senate. 

The measure was added to the defense bill on Thursday as an amendment by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Colorado) who has championed the bill for years and has seen it fail numerous times. 

The measure, which was part of a large block of amendments that were voted on together, passed the Democrat-led House 277-150 and SAFE Banking was added to the overall defense bill. Arkansas’s four congressmen voted against adding the block of amendments, including SAFE Banking, to the defense bill.  

The House then passed the defense bill itself, including the SAFE Banking Act, by a vote of 329-101. Arkansas’s four congressmen voted in favor of the defense bill. 

The SAFE Banking Act would create a safe harbor so that banks, credit unions and credit card companies could provide services to the cannabis industry without violating federal law.

If you want to learn more about the history of the SAFE Banking Act and its support from the Arkansas Bankers Association, go here. And here. And here

The House Cannabis Caucus had this to say

Perlmutter, who has now seen SAFE Banking pass seven times without becoming law, put out this statement: 

Washington, D.C. – Today the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, authored by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) passed the U.S. House of Representatives as an amendment to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill would allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulatory structures to access the banking system. Today marks the seventh time the bill has passed the U.S. after 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.

“It’s time to get this done – and I will pursue any and all legislative avenues to do so. This is yet another opportunity for the Senate to advance common sense cannabis reforms starting with access to the banking system. I’m calling on them to take action for the safety of our communities and success of Veteran- and minority-owned businesses across the country,” said Congressman Perlmutter.

In May 2022, fourteen Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) endorsed the SAFE Banking Act, calling for its “earliest passage and enactment” 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.

In June, 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), Lou Correa (D-CA), Charlie Crist (D-FL), David Joyce (R-OH), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). The SAFE Banking Act enjoys broad, bipartisan support with 180 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 42 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate.