House Passes Historic Cannabis Legislation With Strong Bipartisan Support

The SAFE Banking bill now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate for consideration.

For the first time ever, federal lawmakers have approved a standalone cannabis reform bill. The historic move occurred on Sept. 25 when the United States House of Representatives voted in favor (321-103) of an act granting protection to banks who provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses.

“Thousands of employees, businesses and communities across this country have been forced to deal in piles of cash because of the conflict between state and federal law. After six years of working on this bill, the SAFE Banking Act will go a long way in getting cash off our streets and providing certainty so financial institutions can work with cannabis businesses and employees,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) stated in a press release.

H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act) was authored by Perlmutter and introduced in March. The bill was approved by the House Financial Services Committee the same month. Last week, House leaders confirmed a full House vote was scheduled and that the act would be moved under a process known as suspension of rules, which required two-thirds to pass.

“If someone wants to oppose the legalization of marijuana, that’s their prerogative, but American voters have spoken and continue to speak and the fact is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Prohibition is over,” Perlmutter stated on the House floor Wednesday. “Our bill is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our communities safe and only congress can take these steps to provide this certainty for businesses, employees and financial institutions across the country.”

Despite hesitations from some Democrats leading up to the vote, all but one voted for the act. House Republicans were split on the vote which garnered 91 in favor and 102 opposing the legislation.

The cannabis banking legislation will move on to the Republican-controlled Senate where it is expected to face greater opposition. A Senate companion bill was introduced in April by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

A vote is expected by the end of 2019. Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) announced he would like to see a vote by the end of the year from the Senate Banking Committee. Crapo told Politico that he was not sure if the committee would vote on the SAFE Banking companion bill or craft a new bill.

Broader Marijuana Reform Bills

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he was proud to bring the SAFE Banking legislation to the House floor on Wednesday, but also pointed out the need for broader cannabis reform.

“This must be a first step toward the decriminalization and de-scheduling of marijuana, which has led to the prosecution and incarceration of far too many of our fellow Americans for possession. A number of bills have been introduced to address this issue – by Rep. Barbara Lee, Chairman Jerry Nadler, Caucus Chairman Jeffries, and others,” Hoyer stated prior to the landmark vote.

“I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make progress on this issue and reform federal marijuana laws, including de-scheduling marijuana and providing relief to individuals and communities disproportionally affected by racial biases in the way federal marijuana laws have been enforced.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) teamed up with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to introduce the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. In a Sept. 24 tweet prior to the vote, Nadler reiterated his commitment to cannabis reform and to move his legislation.

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