Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs reported the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation ("SAFER") Banking Act, formerly known as the SAFE Banking Act, out of committee by a vote tally of 14-9. Although the House of Representatives approved the SAFE Banking Act seven times over the past several years, it never made any traction in the Senate. That changed with yesterday's vote, marking the first time that any version of the bill was sent to the Senate floor. The Chairman of the committee, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), expressed his satisfaction with the result, stating that this "bipartisan bill is necessary" to "make it safer for legal cannabis businesses and service providers to operate in their communities and protect their workers."1
The bill will now proceed to the full Senate where it will be considered, debated, and possibly amended. Potential amendments to the bill could include tacking on the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement Act (the "HOPE Act') and the Gun Rights and Marijuana Act (the "GRAM Act") to the final Senate version of the bill. The good news for cannabis operators and advocates is that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has already expressed his intention to bring the bill to a vote before the Senate as quickly as possible.
If the bill passes the Senate, requiring only majority approval (51 out of 100), it will be taken up in the House. Based on the House's prior approval of the SAFE Banking Act, the expectation is that the SAFER Banking Act would enjoy the same bipartisan support previously demonstrated.
While there are still many hurdles ahead and the bill should be vigorously debated on the Senate floor, this move by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs is a huge milestone for the cannabis industry and brings the industry that much closer to receiving the long-awaited financial and banking relief it needs.
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