Victory for New Landmark Cannabis Banking Law

( – Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, with rescheduling and decriminalization still uncertain, Congress is hoping to pass legislation to protect banks that do business with cannabis companies. Many states across the country have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, but companies have struggled to gain access to banking.

Congress passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act may change that. The first hurdle was cleared on September 27 when the legislation moved out of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and has made its way to the Senate floor.

Allowing cannabis companies to enjoy the benefits of banking has received bipartisan support. Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines, who sits on the committee, said that these companies being forced to transact with cash “makes them targets for theft, tax evasion, and for organized crime.” Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who chairs the committee, believes that the bill should be passed to address challenges that owners face when applying for credit without the ability to prove their income. Upon passage in the committee, the American Bankers Association released a congratulatory statement. The association urged the Senate to take up the bill and pass it expeditiously.

The bill will prohibit banks from being penalized for working with cannabis companies in states where marijuana is legal. The House has passed legislation similar to the SAFER Act seven times, but none of its bills have ever made it past Senate committees. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced in early September that he would bring the legislation “to the Senate floor with all due speed” once passed in the banking committee. However, he plans to combine the legislation with other bills that address difficulties with the expungement of criminal records from marijuana infractions at the state level.

Meanwhile, efforts to reschedule marijuana have advanced, with the Department of Health and Human Services officially recommending that the Drug Enforcement Agency reschedule marijuana as a Schedule III drug. As of now, it remains a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD.

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