In a late Friday afternoon news dump, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced that he had filed the SAFE Banking Act, which would provide safe harbor to financial institutions who want to work with the cannabis industry, as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act of 2022.
The America COMPETES Act was introduced to “reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China,” according to President Joe Biden’s administration.
“The SAFE Banking Act is the best opportunity to enact some type of federal cannabis reform this year and will serve as the first of many steps to help ensure cannabis businesses are treated the same as any other legal, legitimate business,” Perlmutter said in a statement on Friday.
Perlmutter will not seek re-election this year, and has promised a vigorous push on cannabis banking legislation before he leaves office. “I will continue to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking over the finish line and signed into law,” he continued.
Perlmutter met a dead end with this approach just last month, with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. Despite support in the House for the inclusion of SAFE Banking language, it didn’t make it into the final text.
The House has passed the SAFE Banking Act twice as a standalone bill: once last year, and once in 2019, but both times it stalled before making headway in the Senate. Perlmutter said in December that the Senate’s “refusal” to act on SAFE led to its inclusion in NDAA.
“It is frustrating. And so then what you have to do is you have to take it up a notch, take it up two notches, to get somebody’s attention. Well, we took it up several notches by putting it in the NDAA,” Perlmutter said at the time.
The SAFE Banking Act has attracted more lobbying attention than any other cannabis bill in Congress, from the American Bankers Association to national insurance organizations to companies like Paypal, as Cannabis Wire has reported. This is in addition to aggressive lobbying from cannabis-focused companies and organizations.
The Act has also proven divisive among cannabis reform and industry stakeholders, as Cannabis Wire has reported.
Maritza Perez, director of the office of national Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Cannabis Wire in December that she felt “relief” at the removal of SAFE Banking from the NDAA.
“I think that Congress would have been making a huge mistake by prioritizing that bill over something that’s more comprehensive that centers people who have been most impacted by the war on drugs,” Perez said.