Today was a truly historic day in the United States House of Representatives. The full chamber passed, for the first time ever, a stand-alone cannabis reform bill. The bill is the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595). In its current form the bill would:

  • Prevent federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with state-legal cannabis and hemp-related businesses
  • Protect ancillary cannabis industry businesses from being charged with certain financial crimes related to cannabis’ Schedule I federal status
  • Require the Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help educate credit unions and banks on how to work with state-legal cannabis companies
  • Allow traditional lending from financial service providers to small businesses, and require regular reporting on cannabis industry loan practices involving women and people of color

The bill passed with bipartisan support, with the measure passing by a vote of 321-103 and receiving ‘yea’ votes from nearly half of voting Republicans in the chamber. The National Cannabis Industry Association has been working on educating lawmakers about the need for this legislation for a long time and deserves an enormous hat tip for its efforts.

“Having worked alongside Congressional leaders to resolve the cannabis industry’s banking access issues for over six years, it’s incredibly gratifying to see this strong bipartisan showing of support in today’s House vote,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the bill sponsors, who have been working with us to move this issue forward long before anyone else thought it was worth the effort.”

“Now, it’s time for the Senate to take swift action to approve the SAFE Banking Act so that this commonsense legislation can make its way to the President’s desk,” continued Smith. “This bipartisan legislation is vital to protecting public safety, fostering transparency, and leveling the playing field for small businesses in the growing number of states with successful cannabis programs.”

The historic nature of today’s vote cannot be understated. This is the first time that a full chamber of Congress has passed a bill that contained solely cannabis reform provisions in it, as pointed out by NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

“For the first time ever, a supermajority of the House voted affirmatively to recognize that the legalization and regulation of marijuana is a superior public policy to prohibition and criminalization,” Strekal stated in a press release.

The logical question is now being asked, ‘what happens next?’ The U.S. Senate already has a cannabis banking bill introduced (S. 1200) in its chamber. The bill was introduced in April by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) has stated recently that cannabis banking legislation is being seriously considered in his chamber. Will it get a vote?

Larger political forces are at play, and that has resulted in a blockade of sorts for legislation coming from the House to the Senate. The provisions of this particular legislation could actually get fair consideration in the Senate now that the House vote has put the spotlight completely on the Senate chamber.

The bill received bipartisan support in the House, and a significant amount of it. Cannabis banking reform in the Senate also has bipartisan support. This bill would benefit the hemp industry, and that is a policy area that Senator Mitch McConnell supports, which is significant.

Will it all be enough to push the bill over the top? We have no choice but to wait and see. In the meantime, all cannabis industry eyes will be on the Senate. Step up and do your part and urge your Senators to get on board!