Congress is months away from holding a vote on a "compromise version" of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-CO, told attendees at a credit union conference on Tuesday.
The bill, which was passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives last September, has been stalled in the Senate, following remarks by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-ID, that he does not support the legislation in its current form. Crapo said he wants the bill to address broader issues, such as a lack of research and public health and safety issues regarding cannabis.
"I believe that in a matter of months we can have a vote on a compromise version in the Senate that will have the support of 60-plus of my colleagues and of the House of Representatives," Gardner said at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.
Gardner said the SAFE Banking Act, which would provide a safe harbor for banks that service marijuana-related businesses, would bring nearly $2 billion of cash from Colorado’s state-legal cannabis industry into the financial system.
Cannabis’s designation as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law has left many financial institutions reluctant to open bank accounts for the emerging industry. The lack of banking services has caused many cannabis-related businesses to operate using cash only.
"Every day that Congress continues to ignore reality, unintended consequences pile up for legitimate businesses," Gardner said. "Sen. Crapo, [Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR] and I have made great progress on the details of the SAFE Banking Act. We are working through some of the objectives Sen. Crapo has in terms of safety, research, and guidance. We’re doing it in a way that respects state’s rights, that respects the voters of the states, that moves forward on this.”
Crapo surprised the industry last summer when he said his committee would hold a hearing on cannabis banking, after he previously indicated he wouldn’t take up the issue so long as the drug is illegal at the federal level. Crapo also told Politico in September he planned to hold a vote on the bill before the end of the year.
But instead of a vote, in the senator’s most recent statement on the SAFE Banking Act, he requested feedback on the bill as well as outlined his concerns with the legislation.
Cannabis and banking trade groups such as CUNA, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America, have urged Crapo to advance the bill.