The SAFE Banking Act is perhaps the most important piece of federal marijuana legislation outside of bills for full legalization or decriminalization. It has also garnered the most posts of any topic on our blog, because of its importance and the rollercoaster it has gone through since being introduced.
In short, the SAFE Banking Act would allow banks and insurance companies to offer their services to marijuana-related businesses without running afoul of federal law. Because of current restrictions, most cannabis businesses are forced to operate in cash only, leading to significant business and operational restrictions, as well as public safety hazards, throughout the industry.
Yesterday, the language of the SAFE Banking Act was included in the House leadership’s latest proposed coronavirus relief bill. Such a move gives the Act’s proponents renewed optimism. This pairing makes sense—some of the problems sought to be addressed by the SAFE Banking Act have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including increased health concerns over handling cash and access to much-needed funds for the industry. If the SAFE Banking Act passes (whether it’s part of coronavirus relief or as standalone legislation), it would make online ordering and cashless transactions much more feasible. It would also open up potential financing options for an industry that has been shut out of Small Business Administration relief to date.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) echoed those sentiments. “Prohibiting these businesses from banking and forcing cash-only transactions in the middle of a global health crisis is irresponsible and wrong,” he said. “The passage of the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act will be a huge benefit, not only to the industry but to our communities and public safety.”
The SAFE Banking Act language could very well make it out of the House, where the standalone bill has already passed with overwhelming support. According to at least one legislator, however, it is highly unlikely to survive the Senate. “I think it’s sure to die in the Senate,” said Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA). “Mr. McConnell has said, in many words and many ways, ‘I’m not interested in moving any legislation of this sort forward.’”
We will continue to report on the cannabis banking legislation and other events affecting the industry on our blog. Also, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for up-to-date information to help you stay informed of the legal issues related to COVID-19.