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House committee passes historic legislation to grant state-legal cannabis-related businesses and their service providers access to financial institutions and services. Companion legislation in the Senate expected soon.
WASHINGTON, DC – On March 28, the House Financial Services Committee voted in favor of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2019. The bill would create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses, their service providers, and some ancillary businesses, thereby granting state-legal cannabis-related businesses access to the same financial institutions and services upon which other types of business rely. “A vote in the full House has yet to be scheduled, but it is our hope that the bill will make it to the floor relatively quickly,” said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) President and Founder Steph Sherer. Earlier this week, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), chair of the House Rules Committee, stated “We will guide it to the House floor for a vote, which I think it will pass with an overwhelming vote -- Democrats and a lot of Republicans as well. [...] I think if we have a strong bipartisan vote, that’ll increase the pressure on the Senate to do something.”
While there is no guarantee that the Senate will take up the bill or that it would be signed into law, the House Financial Services Committee’s passage of the SAFE Banking Act is a historic event. It has been 23 years since California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes in 1996. Today, the adult use of cannabis is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-three states and DC have created comprehensive medical cannabis programs, and 14 additional states have created limited medical cannabis programs or protections. Three out of five U.S. territories have passed legislation to create comprehensive medical cannabis programs and a fourth passed legislation to allow the adult use of cannabis with special protections and provisions for medical cannabis patients. Guam, which is one of the three territories with a comprehensive medical cannabis program, may be on the verge of fully legalizing cannabis. The SAFE Banking Act is the Federal Government’s most far-reaching step toward resolving the tension between federal and state laws regarding cannabis in the modern era.
“Hopefully, the SAFE Banking Act is the first step of many in reforming cannabis policies at the federal level,” said ASA Director of Government Affairs David Mangone. “Access to banking channels puts medical cannabis businesses one step closer to reducing costs for patients and, ultimately, allowing for health insurers to cover medical cannabis and medical cannabis products. Access to banking is an important step in making medical cannabis accessible to those who need it. Laying the groundwork of basic financial services allows patients to buy their medicine through legitimate businesses that test and appropriately package products rather than through the black market.”
Outdated laws regarding access to financial services for cannabis-related businesses are placing undue burdens on patients, hampering business operations, limiting economic growth, and contributing to violence by making cannabis operations and their employees and customers the targets of criminals. It is well past time for an overhaul of banking laws to finally enhance the availability of financial services for, and the financial transparency of, cannabis-related businesses. Americans for Safe Access applauds the House Financial Services Committee for moving on this important piece of legislation and calls for it to be swiftly passed by the full House and Senate and signed into law.
With over 100,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access is the largest national organization of patients, medical cannabis providers, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
Videos of the markup are available here.