Just when it seemed like the cannabis industry would have access to banking through the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which was included in the May 12 COVID relief bill that was approved by the House on May 12, things quickly changed. The provision was excluded in the most recent version, approved by Senate leadership on July 28.
This didn’t surprise reform advocates, but the news is still disappointing. Once the provisions protecting banks that service the cannabis industry were approved by the House, GOP senators took immediate action, lobbying attacks at House Democrats. Hopes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) would step in and save the day were squashed.
Taking the approach that banking reform as it applied to cannabis would help mitigate spread of the coronavirus by diversifying payments transactions from strictly cash-only didn’t work. In an interview with Marijuana Moment, Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, said, “Unfortunately, Senate Republicans and their Leader Mitch McConnell continue to refuse reality in nearly all of the legislative dealings when it comes to cannabis.” Strekal was also quoted as saying, “At a time of a national credit crunch and coin shortage both providing them cover to include this minor but important policy change, their intransigence and desire to see lives ruined by prohibition holds.”
Whether the SAFE Banking Act will see another push for implementation in another piece of legislation is unknown, but likely. Industry trade groups are working to continue conversations about the issue, and earlier in the month, a bipartisan group of state treasurers sent a letter to congressional leadership, urging inclusion of marijuana banking protections in a future piece of COVID-19 relief legislation.