SAFE Banking Act reintroduced with broad bipartisan support
Lawmakers in Washington are once again calling for increased access to financial services for the cannabis industry—and this time, the voices are louder than ever.
Last week, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was reintroduced in the United States Congress. The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Steve Daines, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
The SAFE Banking Act protects financial institutions that wish to provide services to licensed cannabis companies and ancillary businesses in legal states. The bill’s latest version also calls for safe harbor for Minority Depository Institutions and Community Development Financial Institutions to back the cannabis industry; it also makes mortgage loans more accessible for people working in the space.
The bill was introduced in 2019 and reintroduced several more times but has stalled in Congress over the years. However, the most recent iteration has strong support, with 38 co-sponsors in the Senate and eight in the House alongside the leads. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterated his commitment to the bill’s passing, calling broader cannabis reform a “moral responsibility.”
Legal cannabis operators have been pushing for banking reform for years to no avail. Since cannabis is a Schedule I substance in the eyes of the federal government, the vast majority of financial institutions refuse to do business with operators—even in legal states.
According to a 2022 report from the US Treasury Department, only 11 percent of the country’s banks and around 4 percent of credit unions are “actively providing banking services to marijuana-related businesses.”
Cannabis companies are often subject to restrictions and high fees while lacking access to loans, payment processing, and other services crucial to operations. Seventy-two percent of cannabis business owners say “lack of access to banking or investment capital” is their most significant barrier to success, according to a survey conducted by Whitney Economics.
While SAFE Banking may not be the silver bullet the cannabis industry needs to succeed, it would help alleviate many of the challenges operators currently face.