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Senate Committee Approves Historic Cannabis Banking Legislation

Cannabis industry advocates applaud move that sets the stage for SAFER Banking Act to receive Senate floor vote


WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 27, 2023 ( Newswire) Today the Senate Banking Committee approved the Safe and Secure Enforcement and Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, clearing the way for a floor vote. The legislation, introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), would allow financial institutions to do business with the legal cannabis industry without fear of running afoul of federal banking regulations. The legislation cleared the committee with a 14-to-9 vote.

The SAFER Banking Act would afford the cannabis industry better access to financial services that are currently unavailable or not reliably accessible, including depository services, electronic payments, and lending. The bi-partisan legislation has passed in the House seven times in previous congressional sessions but has yet to receive a vote in the Senate. Today's committee vote clears a path for the bill to finally make its way to the Senate floor for a vote.

During the markup session, multiple amendments were offered. One, from Senator Warnock (D-GA) would have created a 5-year sunset for the legislation unless a report from the Treasury Department certified that it had decreased the racial wealth gap and ameliorated other negative economic impacts of the war on drugs. This amendment ultimately failed. Additionally, amendments from Senators Hagerty (R-TN), Rounds (R-SD), Crapo (R-ID) were also offered but were ruled out of order, withdrawn, and failed, respectively.

Advocates are hopeful the Senate will approve the SAFER Banking Act given the strong bipartisan support. 76 Senators represent a state that regulates the sale of cannabis for medical or adult-use - including 28 Republicans.

"The committee's approval of the SAFER Banking Act which gives hope to thousands of compliant, tax-paying businesses desperately trying to access the basic financial services other businesses take for granted," said National Cannabis Industry Association CEO, Aaron Smith. "This uniquely bipartisan legislation has the potential to save lives and help small businesses; it's time for Congress to get it to the president's desk without further delay."

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration made an official recommendation to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III status in the federal Controlled Substances Act but that change would not affect the current banking situation for the industry.

The SAFER Banking Act is endorsed by the National Association of Attorneys General, National Association of State Treasurers, the American Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, the NAACP, Americans for Prosperity, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and a bipartisan group of 20 state governors.

Laws to make cannabis legal for adults have passed in 23 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 38 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. Three in four Americans live in a state where cannabis is legal in some form.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S. and the only national organization representing small and independent cannabis-related businesses. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible, sustainable, and inclusive cannabis industry and works for a favorable social, economic, and regulatory environment for that industry throughout the United States.

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