On September 25th the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595). And while the vote looked easy, it was a long road to get to this, with months of educating members of Congress on why this issue is important with strong credit union, League, and CUNA advocacy on behalf of the bill. The bill seeks to provide legal protections to credit unions and others that serve state-legalized cannabis-based businesses.
There has been a coordinated push since January to help articulate the need for the SAFE Banking Act; credit unions have met with members of Congress, there has been several “dear colleague” letter efforts supported, and credit union representatives have been key with their testimony in hearings. And all of this is not to expand legal marijuana, but rather to illustrate how the current lack of access to financial services for state-legalized cannabis-based business (including low THC in Georgia) is a public safety issue, and underscore how the lack of clarity jeopardizes banking access for non-cannabis-related businesses, which often unknowingly provide cannabis businesses with services from electricity to furniture.
What’s next? Now that the bill has passed the House, its next step is the same process in the Senate, and it will go to the Senate Banking Committee. The positive aspect, however, is that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) has promised to hold a vote this fall on whether to recommend this legislation to the full Senate – and his committee has already met once in July to weigh the issues surrounding providing services to the cannabis industry. In the meantime, the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services FinTech Task Force have been focused on the payment system network, with a hearing on September 25th on the Federal Reserve’s decision to develop a real-time payments network.
And this is coupled with the House Financial Services Committee’s digging into debt collection practices on September 26th as well as the credit union effort to communicate with members of Congress on an issue regarding a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that is presently in conference (meaning the U.S. Senate version of the bill and the U.S. House version are being analyzed to see what moves forward). League CEOs and CUNA jointly spoke out on this issue back in August to draw greater attention to the potential expansion of the exemption for financial institutions (read more here). To make your voice heard on this issue you can do so easily HERE and send a message to the two U.S. Senators from Georgia and your Congressman.
Stay tuned for more action on financial issues in Congress!