In a groundbreaking move on Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee advanced the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act (SAFER) for Senate floor consideration, marking a significant step for cannabis-related legislation.
This bill would pave the way for legal cannabis businesses to access major banking and financial institutions, a move lauded by advocates who have long argued that the existing system, which denies these businesses access to standard banking services, hinders growth and poses security risks.
Currently, federal laws pose a threat to banks and financial institutions, making them liable for federal prosecution if they cater to businesses selling cannabis.
Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voiced his support, highlighting the disadvantages the cash-only transactions present to the burgeoning cannabis sector.
He said, “No industry can flourish if they’re barred from banking infrastructure, particularly one as rapidly expanding as the cannabis sector.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has been termed a “historic moment” that aims to put an end to the cannabis cash economy, enhancing public safety nationwide.
While the cannabis sector and its stakeholders, including major firms like SNDL and Trulieve Cannabis, welcome the move with shares seeing an uptick, uncertainties remain.
The House’s stance on the SAFER Act, despite prior support from significant Republican figures like Speaker Kevin McCarthy, remains to be seen in this Congress.
It’s noteworthy that the previous iteration of the bill, the SAFE Banking Act, was passed by the House of Representatives seven times but failed to get the Senate’s nod.
The recent advancement has revived hopes, with Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers suggesting strong bipartisan backing.
This progression aligns with last month’s recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule III drug, indicating a shift in federal perception of cannabis.