The so-called SAFE Banking Act, which is the least disputed reform sought by the growing industry, got picked up as part of broader legislation, and its inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act was approved by voice vote late Tuesday.
It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass the Senate, but the House action gives it a better shot.
The act would be a boon for marijuana companies, which have so far been stymied by the need to deal in cash because of federal restrictions. That has meant they have extra security costs and logistical problems, even as marijuana increasingly becomes legal. Some three dozen states now allow medical or recreational use, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis research firm.
Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat, who had re-introduced the bill, has said that allowing cannabis businesses to access the banking system would bring more money into the economy and offer the opportunity to create good-paying jobs. The American cannabis industry had $20.3 billion in legal sales in 2020, according New Frontier Data.
The initiative, which has been passed by the House before with bipartisan support but never advanced to the Senate, is still a far cry from the wish list of legal reforms sought by the industry, which include all-out legalization and relief from tax burdens.
The U.S. Cannabis Council, a trade group, called the current rules that require marijuana firms to be all-cash a security hazard.
“Over $17 billion in legal cannabis was sold in the United States last year, overwhelmingly through cash transactions. Forcing legitimate, well-regulated cannabis businesses to conduct most of their business in cash is anachronistic and a clear threat to public safety,” the council’s chief executive officer, Steven Hawkins, said in a statement before the bill passed.
“Every step forward is a positive one for the cannabis industry,” BTIG analyst Camilo Lyon said in a research note Wednesday. He said it isn’t clear whether Senator Chuck Schumer will include the act in the Senate NDAA bill.
“Discussions with our D.C. contacts suggest it has an easier pathway of getting through the Senate, largely because no senator wants to be viewed as holding up the massive 1,700 page must-pass NDAA simply because of SAFE banking,” Lyon wrote.