U.S. senators have introduced a revised version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in an effort to connect legal marijuana companies to banking services, and the bill has garnered new support.
Reports in Forbes on Friday (April 12) said Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), plus 20 additional co-sponsors, introduced the legislation just weeks after a similar bill was approved by the House Financial Services Committee.
The revised SAFE Banking Act would protect financial institutions from punishment for providing financial services to legal marijuana companies. Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told policymakers he supports the initiative.
"If this is something that Congress wants to look at on a bipartisan basis, I'd encourage you to do this," he said during a hearing. "This is something where there is a conflict between federal and state law that we and the regulators have no way of dealing with."
Separately, a House bill, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) ACT, currently has more than one-third of the chamber backing the effort, which exempts legal activity in the sector from the Controlled Substances Act.
Attorney General William Barr offered his support for the STATES Act last week, over the SAFE Banking Act.
"The situation that I think is intolerable and which I'm opposed to is the current situation we're in, and I would prefer one of two approaches rather than where we are," he told the Senate last week. "Personally, I would still favor one uniform federal rule against marijuana but, if there is not sufficient consensus to obtain that, then I think the way to go is to permit a more federal approach so states can make their own decisions within the framework of the federal law ..."
In a statement, Senator Merkley said the current landscape for legal marijuana businesses to operate as a cash-only enterprise "is dangerous for our communities."
"This is a public safety issue, and I hope that this will be the Congress when we build a bipartisan consensus to put this common sense fix into law," he added.