SAFE Banking Act Passes House

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by the Veterans Cannabis Coalition

Today marks a historic first: the House of Representatives has voted to advance the SAFE Banking Act, the first standalone cannabis reform bill to ever come to the floor. Passing with 321-103 votes in favor, the SAFE Banking Act would create a 'safe harbor' law that allows cannabis and ancillary businesses (like real estate and transportation) to use traditional banking services, despite cannabis still being a federal Schedule I controlled substance.

This bill has come to represent the #1 cannabis industry priority, as the current situation forces them into conducting business in cash and being unable to use basic financial services like deposits and business loans. SAFE Banking has been framed by supporters variously as a public safety measure, a resolution of conflict between federal and state law, and defending civil liberties.

This bill, if enacted, will undoubtedly ease many of the current difficulties faced by cannabis businesses and businesses that work closely with the industry. The nature of our banking system means there is massive federal oversight, so despite it being legal to varying degrees in states there are few banks willing to take on the risk and cost of doing business with cannabis industry.

But banking access flows in both directions. Heavily capitalized sectors--like alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, to name just a few--will no longer face the biggest hurdle to fully participating, and dominating, the cannabis market. Consider that the combined sales alone of those three industries in the United States total nearly $1 trillion. The value of the entire cannabis market--including assets and intellectual property--may be in the $100+ billion range. These sectors have already demonstrated their interest and come to the table with a truly astounding network of political influence, logistics, marketing, and money. Once they are no longer against cannabis, they will seek to control cannabis.

While the passage of the SAFE Banking Act in the House is a historic victory, it's ultimate fate is unclear. The Senate Banking Committee Chair, Mike Crapo (R-ID), has indicated he might write his own version of the bill which, if passed, means that the House will be faced with passing a Senate version or nothing. With the Senate under Republican control and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not signalling any interest in taking up cannabis banking. But going into a contentious Presidential election year, while also being up for re-election himself, all bets are off.

The work is still far from done. Political cowardice, also known as cannabis prohibition, continues to hurt and kill Americans, criminalizing them, stigmatizing them, denying them access to a plant and dismissing their own lived reality. Veterans, like all Americans, are harmed by prohibition, which is why we will end cannabis prohibition and research, reform, and restore . The next victory will be for the people.


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