On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (“SAFE Banking”) by a vote of 321-103. The final vote, which required 2/3 majority of the House, included 229 Democrats and 91 Republications.
Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s sponsor who first introduced the legislation back in 2013, amended the bill ahead of Wednesday’s floor vote to broaden its GOP appeal.
Although the vote is a clear showing of the House’s favor of cannabis reform, it remains to be seen if the Republican-controlled Senate will approve the bill. Currently, SAFE Banking has 33 co-sponsors in the Senate.
As the bill heads to the Senate, it includes two key amendments aimed at increasing its likelihood for passage:
Specifically, the amendments added language clarifying that banks servicing hemp and CBD businesses would receive the same protections as those servicing legitimate cannabis businesses. As a result, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a fierce advocate of the hemp and CBD industries, may be persuaded to vote in favor of the bill despite his opposition to broader marijuana reform.
Additionally, SAFE Banking now includes language preventing the revival of Operation Choke Point – a program which previously discouraged banks from working with businesses that were deemed at high risk for financial wrongdoing. This anti-Choke Point measure was added, conceivably to address Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) comments during a July senate hearing about the bill. Senator Crapo recently announced that he would like to hold a committee vote on the bill by the end of the year.
Although SAFE Banking faces an uphill battle in the senate and the White House, Wednesday was a historic day for cannabis reform, marking the first piece of cannabis legislation passed in the U.S. Congress.