U.S. House lawmakers on Wednesday approved overwhelmingly by a 321-103 vote the SAFE Banking Act. The SAFE Banking Act would pave the way for financial institutions and insurance companies to serve state-legal cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses without fear of federal reprisal. Ninety-one Republicans voted for the measure, in a showing of strong bipartisan support. This marks the first time a body of Congress has approved pro-cannabis legislation.
While Wednesday’s vote is a historic step for the cannabis industry, this move alone is not expected to substantially change cannabis businesses’ financial situations as they relate to banking – unless the Senate follows suit.
Banking organizations have been understandably reluctant to provide banking services to cannabis-related businesses in light of the significant (and costly) regulatory and compliance expectations that apply under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and other anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations. A number of banking organizations, most notably the American Bankers Association (ABA) and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), have been in strong support of cannabis banking reform, urging Congress and federal banking regulators to resolve the current conflict between state and federal law with regard to cannabis and provide explicit protection and guidance to financial institutions.
For the cannabis industry, this represents a major inflection point and hopefully bodes well for further rationalization of federal cannabis policies.