We’re hovering on the brink of the first pro-marijuana federal legislation in an age. On Friday morning, the House confirmed that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act will be put to a vote next week. The proposed legislation is only the third piece of potential cannabis law to make it out of committee, and the really crazy part? With a fair level of bipartisan support, the thing has a good chance of passing.
The bill would be a serious assist to cannabis businesses that are currently hamstrung by being locked out of many national financial institutions. The SAFE Act would ensure stability to the US’ growing marijuana industry.
Historic as it may be, many marijuana advocates don’t think the bill is an appropriate first step towards federal cannabis legalization in a nation that has suffered an unjust and racist war on drugs. The ACLU, Center for American Progress, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week raising concerns about the SAFE Act. In the communiqué, the groups questioned the wisdom of focusing cannabis reform on marijuana business leaders.
“[The SAFE Banking Act] narrowly addresses the issues of banking and improved access to financial services, measures that would benefit the marijuana industry, not communities who have felt the brunt of prohibition,” states the letter.
“We ask that you delay any vote on the banking bill until agreement has been reached around broader marijuana reform,” it continues.
Many of those leaders have thrown their support behind another bill entirely; the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. That proposal would not only allow states to regulate marijuana, but also set up processes for the expungement of past cannabis convictions, and institute a variety of other measures meant to rectify the most hypocritical and punitive aspects of marijuana prohibition. Among these would be protections for people in public housing who use cannabis — people who are currently at risk of losing their homes even if they are taking medicinal marijuana that is legal under their state’s laws.
The SAFE Act is not entirely without its social equity components. An amendment added during the committee process by the bill’s sponsor, Colorado Democrat Representative Ed Perlmutter, that would ensure that the federal government has a responsibility to aid access to financial services for cannabis businesses that are owned by women and POCs.
But the SAFE Act enjoys bipartisan support that many say will ensure smooth sailing to ratification. Republican leadership has expressed an affinity for bolstering the country’s nascent CBD and hemp industries, and the SAFE Act would certainly remove some barriers to businesses looking to get their start in those areas of business.
The legislation was advanced from the House Financial Services Committee in March by a vote of 45 to 15. In July, it received a hearing that gathered comments on the Senate version of the bill not only from elected officials, but also representatives from the cannabis industry.
The legislation also has the support of many law enforcement officials. In May, a bipartisan coalition of attorney generals from 33 states and five federal territories sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for the passage of the SAFE Act.