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SAFE Banking Act excluded from federal defense bill

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has been excluded from the new version of the congressional defense bill. On September 23, 2021, the US House of Representatives passed the act for the fifth time since its introduction in 2013. The SAFE Banking Act would provide protection for financial institutions that choose to work with cannabis-related businesses, and would thus create a solution for the many cannabis businesses forced to work with a cash-only model. However, during the meeting on December 7, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was not amended to include it. 

Why is it excluded?
During the meeting, many lawmakers were in support of the SAFE Banking Act. U.S. Rep. Ed Permutter, chief sponsor of the banking reform bill, stated: “Without the ability to have banking, many small businesses — veteran-owned organizations, or women-owned businesses — don’t have access to capital.” However, the Act has not yet received support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who wants Congress to pass a more comprehensive reform. As a result, during the meeting on December 7, Rep. Adam Smith shared that they should not go against the Senate’s objections: “If the majority leader in the Senate has this opinion — and it’s worth noting that the minority leader has a similar position in the Senate — they don’t want this included, that’s not the way the process works.” See the video below for the full meeting.

“This decision harms businesses”
After the decision to exclude the SAFE Banking Act, Perlmutter expressed his disappointment. “Including the SAFE Banking Act in the NDAA process resulted in increased awareness and attention to this important problem. That said, people are still getting killed and businesses are still getting robbed because of a lack of action from the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act has been sitting in the Senate for three years and with every passing day their unwillingness to deal with the issue endangers and harms businesses, their employees, and communities across the country.” However, he is not yet giving up. “My work on this bill is far from over. As Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer are aware, going forward, I plan to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking signed into law.”

Steven Hawkins, CEO of the US Cannabis Council, also shares his disappointment in a statement. “We see the consequences every day of the lack of banking access, from the rash of dispensary robberies to the ongoing challenges of minority and small business owners to secure capital. The SAFE Banking Act would provide urgently needed relief to cannabis businesses of all sizes and put wind in the sails of the broader push to end federal cannabis prohibition.

"We are grateful to the sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, as well as those who reached out to Congress to support it, including governors, business leaders, and advocates across the country. We fully support Rep. Perlmutter’s efforts to add SAFE Banking back to the NDAA in the Rules Committee and urge lawmakers to take every effort to pass this important measure," Hawkins adds.

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