Carving another notch in cannabis legalization’s belt, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill permitting banks and other financial institutions to deal with cannabis companies.
Though recreational weed is now legal in 11 states and medical marijuana is legal in a bunch more, weed’s criminal status at the federal level has prevented banks from legally working with cannabis businesses, lest they face criminal charges themselves.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act was passed Wednesday in a sweeping victory, 321 to 103. All but one House Democrat voted in favor of the measure and nearly half of Republicans did too.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) co-sponsored the SAFE Act and says the bill upholds the values of voters.
“If someone wants to oppose legalization of marijuana, that’s their prerogative. But American voters have spoken and continue to speak, and the fact is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” Perlmutter said Wednesday, as reported by CNN. “Prohibition is over.”
In addition, Perlmutter noted that limiting cannabis companies’ access to banks encourages crime, an often-repeated argument for opening up banks to the weed industry.
“It’s an invitation to theft, it’s an invitation to money laundering already, it’s an invitation to tax evasion, and it stifles the opportunities of this business,” he said.
The SAFE Act will now graduate to the Republican-controlled Senate, where many fear it will face serious opposition, including from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has called cannabis “hemp’s illicit cousin.” In addition, the Senate is currently jammed up with appropriation bills which it has to work through by October 1 to avoid a government shutdown.
Photo via Flick