A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter urging Senate leadership to retain provisions in a national defense spending bill which would shield banks that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses from federal interference.
The bill – the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – was passed by the House in September and included provisions from the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
The Senate is yet to pass its version of the NDAA. When it does, it will be reviewed by a bicameral conference committee in order to combine the two measures into one standalone bill that can be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.
And five lawmakers who sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee have called on the bicameral committee members to ensure the final draft includes the assurances that financial institutions won’t face repercussions for working with marijuana businesses acting in accordance with state law.
The letter, penned by Sen. Jack Rosen (D-NV) with the signatures of Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME) and Gary Peters (D-MI), argues that passing the NDAA with marijuana banking provisions “would support a rapidly growing industry that creates jobs, supports small businesses, and raises revenue in states that have chosen to legalize cannabis, while reducing safety risks.”
“Allowing cannabis businesses operating legally and in compliance with state law to access financial services without federal reprisal would address public safety and compliance challenges, helping communities reduce cash-motivated crimes,” the letter continues.
“The bill’s list of co-sponsors is also bipartisan in both the House and the Senate. Given the demonstrated broad support for this measure, we ask you to ensure that the text of the SAFE Banking Act remain in the forthcoming final conference version of the FY22 NDAA by the Senate receding to the House of Representatives on Title LIV of H.R.4350 (Sections 5401 through 5415). This will help cannabis-related businesses, create jobs, and strengthen public safety in our communities,” the letter concludes.
Several versions of the SAFE Banking Act have cleared the House five times in the past few years, but it’s yet to receive a full floor vote in the Senate. Previous Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider the measure under his watch, while incoming leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to prioritize comprehensive federal legalization before acting on piecemeal financial reforms for the cannabis industry.
However, Schumer indicated recently he would consider a floor vote of the NDAA with marijuana banking reform included if it also contained social equity provisions.
The bipartisan letter follows a similar move by a coalition of more than twenty governors who also urged Senate leadership to pass some form of the SAFE Banking Act with haste.
More recently, an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official said banking access for legitimate cannabis businesses would make the agency’s job a lot easier. As a stop-gap measure to support marijuana businesses in complying with tax requirements, the IRS hosted an event that included a session on how to “prepare a tax return for illegal activities.”