US House passes law to normalize adult cannabis trafficking


The SAFE Banking Act would improve the security of legal marijuana marketplaces and encourage more entrepreneurship in the emerging legal industry

Members of the House of Representatives today voted for a stand-alone law, the SAFE Banking Act, to remove the persistent inconsistencies between state and federal marijuana laws.

In a vote of 321-101, the House of Representatives approved the SAFE Banking Act of HR 1996, which would create a legal safe haven for financial institutions to do business with state-licensed and regulated cannabis companies.

“For the first time since Joe Biden assumed the presidency, a majority in the House voted positive that the legalization and regulation of marijuana is a superior public policy over prohibition and criminalization,” said Justin Strekal, political director of NORML. “However, the SAFE Banking Act is only a first step towards ensuring that these state-legal markets function safely and efficiently. The sad reality is that those who own or patronize the unbanked companies are themselves criminals in the eyes of the federal government, which can only be addressed by removing marijuana from the controlled substances list. “

To date, over 40 percent of Americans live in a jurisdiction that allows transactions related to the sale of cannabis under state law, and the majority of Americans live in a state that permits the sale of medicinal cannabis.

Why NORML supports the passage of HR 1996: The Safe Banking Act:

Federal law currently defines all marijuana-related activities as a criminal enterprise, including commercial activities that are licensed and regulated by state laws. As a result, virtually no state-licensed cannabis company can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or lend to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

In this environment, the rapidly growing multi-billion dollar cannabis industry is largely cash-only, making businesses more vulnerable to theft and more difficult to audit. This ongoing federal ban also endangers the safety and wellbeing of these companies’ customers as they must carry significant amounts of cash with them to make legal purchases in retail stores. For these reasons, NORML has long advocated that federal legislators vote “yes” to the SAFE Banking Act.

A version of this law was first passed in the House of Representatives on September 25, 2019. It was then included multiple times in various COVID relief packages that the House approved in the previous Congress. Ultimately, however, the language was not included in any of the COVID stimulus bills issued.

What’s next?

Commenting on the next steps, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “Today’s vote marks another major milestone on the road to lifting the federal ban, but lawmakers need to take much more action in both houses. In the Senate we are awaiting a sweeping proposal promised by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, and in the House of Representatives we await additional efforts to move forward and pass sweeping reform laws like the MORE Act, that was approved in the previous Congress – to ultimately bring federal law into line with the new political and cultural realities surrounding marijuana. “

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