US Senate Excludes SAFE Banking Language from America COMPETES Act

Washington, DC: Members of the US Senate have advanced an amended version of HR 4521: the American COMPETES Act. The Senate version of the bill, unlike the House version, does not include provisions of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.

Members of the House voted in February to include SAFE Banking provisions in HR 4521. That marked the sixth time that House members had advanced SAFE Banking to the Senate as either an amendment or as a stand-alone piece of legislation. In December, Senate lawmakers similarly removed the language from a House-backed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Senate’s decision to strike the language from HR 4521 means that the fate of SAFE Banking will be decided in Conference Committee – when leaders from both chambers and from both parties negotiate on finalizing the bill’s language. Some powerful Republican Senators, like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly criticized the inclusion of the banking language as a “poison pill.”

NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox urged members of the conference committee to prioritize the inclusion of SAFE Banking provisions in the bill. “It is imperative for the interests of public safety, transparency, and the economic viability of small cannabis businesses that this legislation is approved as soon as possible,” he said. “Continued inaction by the Senate on this popular bipartisan reform puts workers and customers at risk of violence, makes it harder for regulators to accurately track cannabis revenue, and perpetuates the high costs and lack of access to capital that are increasingly widening the gap between large and small businesses in the cannabis space when it comes to their chances to succeed.”

Morgan reminded lawmakers that a growing number of cannabis retailers have been recent victims of armed robberies because it is well known that these establishments are required to maintain large quantities of cash on hand.  

According to the most recent financial information provided by the US Treasury Department, only about ten percent of all banks and only about four percent of all credit unions provide services to licensed cannabis-related businesses.

Additional information on the SAFE Banking Act is available from NORML.