The U.S. House will include legislative language from the SAFE Banking Act in the next relief bill aimed at economic relief amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Thus far in the current economic crisis, cannabis businesses have been largely excluded from such relief. The ongoing Schedule-I status of the plant has barred any federal stimulus aid or small business loans from hitting the industry—even as cannabis business around the U.S. have been deemed “essential” in this difficult moment.
The SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House last fall, but the Senate has not yet taken any action on the measure. In short, the bill (formally titled the Secure and Fair Enforcement of Banking Act) would allow banks to work with cannabis businesses and prevent any federal banking regulator from intervening or punishing those banks.
“Cannabis businesses are dealing with the same hardships as other small business without the same critical financial tools and reliable banking services. Providing access to banking services removes some of the shackles that are holding back the full potential of the fastest growing sector of the US economy,” said Saphira Galoob, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, said in a public statement. “NCR applauds the House for acknowledging the legitimacy of cannabis businesses, and especially the work of Congressman Perlmutter who has been a tireless champion for the industry and its thousands of small businesses and workers.”
Despite the silence from the U.S. Senate as a governing body on this question, the SAFE Banking Act has picked up fairly broad support. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin trumpeted the fundamental need for some sort of solution last year. Governors around the country have signaled support for the federal measure, as well.
Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, said in a public statement today: “The inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in the CARES 2 package is a positive development, but one that’s akin to applying a band-aid to a gaping wound. In the majority of states, these cannabis businesses have been deemed essential during this pandemic. But at the federal level, they are being cast aside by Congress. Those small cannabis businesses facing tough economic times are essentially being told by Congress to shutter their doors and fire their employees.”