Perlmutter's SAFE Banking Act to protect banks that work with marijuana industry passes House

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 19:25:45-04

DENVER – Six years after he first started working on the measure, Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s bill that aims to protect banks and other financial institutions who engage in business with licensed marijuana businesses from federal criminal statutes passed the full U.S. House of Representatives for the first time.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act) passed 321-103 with bipartisan support, and Perlmutter celebrated afterward with cosponsors of his measure from both parties. The measure had 206 cosponsors before Wednesday’s vote and picked up dozens of Republican supporters during the roll call.

“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,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “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.”

Democratic Reps. Perlmutter, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Jason Crow all voted in favor of the measure’s passage, along with Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican.

Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn – both Republicans – voted against the measure.

The bill will prohibit federal banking regulators from penalizing financial institutions that do business with legal and licensed marijuana businesses in states where marijuana or CBD is legal. Proponents of the measure say it will allow businesses to more-safely store their money and keep better track of its payroll and taxes. Forty-seven states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories have now legalized recreational and/or medical marijuana or CBD.

The measure has been lauded by marijuana and cannabis groups, dozens of bank and credit union groups and other organizations, and Colorado’s attorney general's office and several others have urged Congress to pass the banking protections along with other marijuana-related reforms at the federal level.

“The SAFE Banking Act is an important step toward providing the certainty we need as financial services providers to serve the growing recreational cannabis industry and protect our members, as well as the taxpayers of Colorado,” said Scott Earl, the president of the Mountain West Credit Union Association.

Crow said he was “proud” to support the measure and DeGette reiterated her support of the measure: “These businesses should have the same access to banking as any other legitimate business.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who is an original cosponsor of a companion bill in the Senate – S. 1200, which is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. – also lauded passage of the measure in the House. He joined Perlmutter and Neguse in introducing this Congress’ version of the measure in April and urged the Senate to take the bill up and pass it to the president’s desk.

“Today Congress began to take its head out of the sand and recognize that states are moving forward with their own cannabis policies and the federal government is holding them back,” Gardner said in a statement. “Today’s historic action in the people’s House adds to the momentum the SAFE Banking Act gained following the Banking Committee’s hearing in July. The Senate should move forward with the SAFE Banking Act and deliver it to the President for his signature.”

The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the Senate version in July and its chairman said he planned to take up legislation this fall recently, according to Politico.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis thanked Perlmutter for his work in passing the measure: "Thank you Ed Perlmutter for leading the charge to allow full access to banking for legal cannabis companies."