Senators Reintroduce SAFE Banking Act To Normalize Cannabis Commerce

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), along with 27 other members of the Upper Chamber, reintroduced The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the U.S. Senate.

Federal law currently defines all marijuana-related endeavors as criminal enterprises, including those commercial activities that are licensed and legally regulated under state laws. Therefore, almost no state-licensed cannabis businesses can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or take standard business deductions on their federal taxes. 

In this environment, the rapidly growing multi-billion dollar cannabis industry must operate largely on a cash-only basis, which makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. This ongoing federal prohibition also places the safety and welfare of these businesses’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities. 

For these reasons, NORML has long advocated that federal lawmakers vote “yes” on The SAFE Banking Act.

You can send a message to your lawmakers in support of the SAFE Banking Act quickly here.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).

Members of the House reintroduced the bill last week.

Last Congress, members of the House of Representatives voted 321 to 103 in favor of the bill on September 25, 2019. On two additional occasions, House members re-approved the bill’s provisions as part of broader economic stimulus packages. However, under the control of then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, members of the Senate failed to take up the language.

Here are what the bill’s sponsors had to say:

“No one working in a store or behind a register should have to worry about experiencing a traumatic robbery at any moment,” said Senator Merkley. “That means we can’t keep forcing legal cannabis businesses to operate entirely in cash—a nonsensical rule that is an open invitation to robbery and money laundering. Let’s make 2021 the year that we get this bill signed into law so we can ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees safe.”

“Montana businesses shouldn’t have to operate in all cash—they should have a safe way to conduct business,” Senator Daines said. “My bipartisan bill will provide needed certainty for legal Montana cannabis businesses and give them the ability to freely use banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without the fear of punishment. This in turn will help increase public safety, reduce crime, support Montana small businesses, create jobs and boost local economies. A win-win for all.”

Author: Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

You can follow me on twitter @justinstrekal