Congress Introduces SAFE Banking Act… Again

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, aiming that a bicameral push would increase the bill’s chances of becoming a law.

This bipartisan bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Earl Blumenauer with Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Dave Joyce, would shield financial institutions from federal prosecution for providing services to cannabis businesses operating in accordance with state laws.

“I introduced the SAFE Banking Act to help make sure all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to help keep their employees and their communities safe. We need to finally pass it in 2023, and we have a path to do it,” Merkley said in a tweet.

Currently, federal banking regulations do not recognize the legal cannabis industry, posing a significant barrier to accessing banking and financial services for registered businesses. This creates transparency concerns for the industry and government officials tasked with regulating it, and cannabis firms are being targeted for robbery, with catastrophic consequences.

The SAFE Banking Act aims to create a safe haven for financial service providers to collaborate with cannabis firms, allowing for standard lending, which is now restricted in the industry. Small and minority-owned firms suffer the most from a lack of funding.

The House has approved previous versions of the SAFE Banking Act by broad margins and with considerable bipartisan support seven times in the last two congressional sessions, but the bill has so far stagnated in the Senate. Advocates expect that the measure will obtain a hearing, an affirmative vote in both chambers, and be signed into law this year, as other states pass laws allowing for cannabis sales.

There are presently 322 House members and 76 senators from states with comprehensive medicinal or adult-use cannabis legislation, and the SAFE Banking Act will directly benefit their people.

“With a supermajority of Congress now representing a state with licensed cannabis sales, enacting this sensible and necessary legislation should be among the least controversial issues before the Senate today,” said National Cannabis Industry Association co-founder and CEO Aaron Smith. “This bill is a common sense step toward improving public safety and transparency while also opening much-needed access to capital to struggling small businesses throughout the nation.”

A Gallup poll conducted in November 2022 indicated that 68% of Americans support legalizing cannabis for adults, while a recent Pew Research Center study found that less than 10% of Americans still support marijuana prohibition.

Adult-use cannabis legislation has been approved in 22 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, and 38 states, as well as many territories, have comprehensive medicinal cannabis legislation. Almost three-quarters of all Americans live in a state where cannabis is legal in some form.

The fresh attempt to pass the bipartisan bill still faces contradictory rhetoric about the legal use of cannabis, much less its introduction in the legal financial system–precisely an integral reason why the bill hasn’t yet made it to the president’s desk in the past two congressional sessions.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t make a lot of progress,” said Jason Wild, Executive Chairman of TerrAscend Corp (CSE: TER), in a The Deep Dive interview back in 2021 when the bill was passed in the House for the second time. “I think that social justice is a much bigger issue for so many of the politicians in the driver’s seat… I feel like what’s gonna happen is that a lot of the major points of progress [in the bill]… may not be prioritized.”

Over 100 members of the National Cannabis Industry Association are anticipated to travel to Washington, D.C. at the organization’s 11th Annual Cannabis Industry campaign Days, May 16-18, to campaign for the adoption of the SAFE Banking Act and other industry goals.

Information for this briefing was found via National Cannabis Industry Association, Stupid Dope, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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