First Congress marijuana vote coming next week

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Lawmakers will vote on a marijuana banking bill

2019 promises to be an important year for marijuana on the federal level and things are getting off to a good start. Despite government shutdowns and delays, marijuana legislation is pushing ahead and Congress is preparing to hold its first vote on a marijuana-related topic next week.

The House Financial Services Committee will meet next Tuesday, where it will vote on a bill designed to protect banks that work with businesses in the marijuana industry. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, sponsored by Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Warren Davidson (R-OH), would allow banks to deal with those businesses without fear of repercussions from the federal government. SAFE already has 138 cosponsors, which represents over one-quarter of the House.

In a tweet from yesterday, Perlmutter stated, “After no action for 6 years, #SAFEBanking has received its first hearing and will see its first vote next week. Glad to have the support of 138+ cosponsors as we work to address the #cannabis banking issue and get cash off our streets.”

The SAFE Act was introduced last year, but never made it that far. It has seen several changes since then, including protections afforded financial institutions that work with ancillary cannabis businesses. It also requests that the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council implement “uniform guidance and examination procedures for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses.”

Commenting on the vote, NORML’s political director, Justin Strekal, stated, “The banking issue is just one aspect of the failed policy of federal marijuana criminalization. In order to truly bring the marijuana industry out of the shadows, actions need to be taken by Congress to amend this, and many others, outdated and discriminatory practices. This will certainly not be the last hearing of this Congress to discuss marijuana prohibition and we expect a full hearing on prohibition to be scheduled in the months to come.”