- The Washington Times - Friday, March 19, 2021

Marijuana legislation that would protect banks that service legal cannabis businesses was reintroduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of more than 100 members.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, or SAFE Banking Act, seeks to ensure financial institutions can service legitimate marijuana businesses without risking punishment from federal regulators.

Most states have legalized marijuana to one degree or another, but some banks remain wary of working with stakeholders there because of the plant being considered a federally controlled substance.

Should the SAFE Banking Act be signed into law, federal regulars would be prohibited from penalizing or otherwise discouraging a financial institution from working with legitimate cannabis businesses.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat behind the bill, said restricting marijuana businesses from accessing banking services has created a “serious public safety risk” in his state and others.

“Thousands of employees and businesses across this country have been forced to deal in piles of cash for far too long, and it is the responsibility of Congress to step up and take action to align federal and state laws for the safety of our constituents and communities,” Mr. Perlmutter said in a statement.

Among the 107 representatives listed as co-sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act are more than a dozen Republicans, including Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Steve Stivers of Ohio and Andy Barr of Kentucky.

Members of the Democratic-controlled House previously voted to pass the SAFE Banking Act during the last Congress, but Republicans leading the U.S. Senate failed to move the bill forward at the time.

Since January, Democrats have controlled both sides of Congress and the White House.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat and the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said the SAFE Banking Act is expected to be reintroduced in the Senate in the coming days.

“Addressing the irrational, unfair and unsafe denial of banking services to legal cannabis businesses is not just an economic issue, but an urgent public safety issue that will save lives and livelihoods,” Mr. Blumenauer said. “It is a critical element of cannabis reform that can’t wait.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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