How Important is the SAFE Banking Act, Anyway?

I’m pretty sure that more ink has been spilled on the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act (“SAFE Banking”), than any other proposed cannabis law. It just won’t pass and it just won’t die. Specifically, SAFE Banking was introduced in 2017 and it passed the House seven times (seven times!) with bipartisan support since 2019. The public likes it too: here’s a November 2022 Data for Progress poll revealing that “By a +65-point margin, voters support ensuring that banks do not discriminate against legitimate marijuana-related businesses.” This bill should pass, right?

It’s getting closer. SAFE Banking will finally go to mark-up this week in the Senate Banking Committee. That Committee is preparing to vote before October 1, although what they’ll be voting on at this point isn’t entirely clear. (For some chatter on that, check out this Marijuana Moment piece from last Friday.) But let’s assume that SAFE Banking, after mark-up, holds onto its key tenets. It would prevent federal banking regulators from:

prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as a lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business); terminating or

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