Despite overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. House, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (“SAFE Banking Act”) appears unlikely to pass the Senate any time soon. Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID), speaking at a conference for the Independent Community Bankers of America, acknowledged the problems created by excluding marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) from the financial system but concluded that “[a]s long as cannabis is illegal under federal law, it seems to me to be difficult for us to resolve the issue.” Crapo further stated that “I cannot make a commitment as to whether we will take up legislation yet because we want to see how we can resolve this difference between criminal law and our financial law.” Recognizing the power wielded by Senator Crapo with respect to banking issues and reading between the lines on his comments, the SAFE Banking Act’s prospects appear dim in the Senate at the moment.
The SAFE Banking Act would open the financial services market to MRBs by shielding those financial institutions from federal penalties if they serve state-legal MRBs. This would greatly increase the safety and efficiency of the MRBs, many who currently operate in cash only. In late March, the SAFE Banking Act passed out of the House Financial Services Committee on a 45-15 vote, with 11 Republican supporters. Attorney General Barr recently suggested that he too would be amenable to the SAFE Banking Act or similar legislation that would address MRBs’ lack of access to traditional financial services.
We will continue to keep an eye on the SAFE Banking Act and report on any significant developments. You can read our previous post regarding the SAFE Banking Act here.