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SAFE Banking Act Advances To House Floor After Committee Vote

March 28, 2019 12:32 pm
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The House Financial Services Committee voted Thursday in favor of the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow cannabis businesses to work with banks and credit unions. The vote advances the bill to the House floor.

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What Happened

The vote was preceded by several days of debate and consideration of amendments. In the end, the Committee voted 45-15 to advance the bill for consideration by the full legislative body. 

The SAFE Banking Act aims to create protections from federal prosecution for banks that provide financial services to legal cannabis businesses, as well as providers of ancillary services. 

Among the amendments the committee approved: extending protections to new banking institutions that are seeking charters or master accounts from a Federal Reserve Bank; covering insurance companies; and requiring the Government Accountability Office to examine previous reports that banks file on their marijuana business customers to understand how effectively banks can identify bad actors. 

On the other hand, an amendment that would limit the bill only to hemp businesses and remove protections from banks that serve cannabis businesses located in proximity to schools was defeated.

Another amendment that was shot down would have delayed enactment of the bill until cannabis is federally descheduled, until federal financial regulators can issue new guidance to banks or until the Treasury secretary can certify the legislation wouldn't make a financial institution more susceptible to illicit financial activity and money laundering. 

Why It's Important

Although Thursday's vote was only at the committee level, the cannabis industry is celebrating it as a milestone.

The bipartisan vote is seen as a positive sign that the SAFE Banking Act will be approved in the House, Morgan Fox, spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Benzinga. 

"We've been working hard on this bill for years, and it is wonderful to see it gaining so much momentum. Now we are urging lawmakers to push for a vote without delay." 

Green Bits CEO Ben Curren said Congress has taken a major step forward in making the cannabis industry "more safe, secure and transparent." 

Much skepticism remains over whether the bill will pass. Despite widespread support for legalization among Americans, the Republican Party is still on the fence, and the SAFE Banking Act is not likely to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate. 

What's Next

Even though the SAFE Banking Act cleared the committee vote, it still has to be scheduled for debate on the House floor. 

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