Senators on Thursday unveiled bipartisan cannabis banking legislation, pushing forward an initiative that’s cleared the House several times but hasn’t yet made it through the Senate.
Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced a bill aimed at protecting financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses and service providers for those businesses in states where it’s been legalized, according to bill text shared by Punchbowl News.
“Right now, legal cannabis businesses are forced to operate entirely in cash. It’s a dangerous system—ripe for robbery, assaults, tax fraud, and money laundering. If you care about public safety, cash is a terrible system,” said Merkley, a leading advocate for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking reform.
“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,” he said.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) on Thursday introduced the bill in the House.
Previous versions of the SAFE bill have been approved by the House seven times over the past two congressional sessions, but it hasn’t cleared the Senate. Merkley says the latest introduction is the first time senators have created a path to get the bill to a floor vote in the upper chamber.
“It is past time that Congress addresses the irrational, unfair, and unsafe prohibition of basic banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses,” said Blumenauer, founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.