House Members Once Again Advance SAFE Banking Reform in Must-Pass NDAA Package, Include Cannabis Protections for Veterans
Washington, DC: Members of the US House of Representatives have once again advanced legislation, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, to the US Senate.
Members voted yesterday in favor of must-pass legislation, the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That legislative package includes SAFE Banking as an amendment. The vote marks the seventh time that House members have advanced this language to the Senate as either an amendment or as a stand-alone bill. It is the second time that members have included the provisions in the NDAA.
Several other marijuana-related amendments were included in the package, such as the language of the Veterans Equal Access Act which would permit VA doctors to issues medical cannabis recommendations in states where it is legal. Other amendments would advise the VA not to deny home loans to veterans based on their involvement in the legal cannabis industry, prevent federal employers from discriminating against veterans for past or current cannabis use, and mandate additional study of cannabis as an alternative to opioids for treating certain conditions.
The Senate has yet to introduce its version of the bill. Politico reports that Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) is planning to introduce it in September. Once passed, the House and Senate will need to reconcile the two versions.
“The House has shown once again that the people’s chamber is ready, willing, and able to move forward with sensible cannabis policy reforms,” said NORML Political Director Morgan Fox. “Our nation’s disastrous marijuana policies negatively impact national security on a number of levels and actively harm those who have valiantly served. It is now up to the Senate to help veterans and small businesses by including these broadly popular measures in their companion legislation, or continue standing in the way of progress.”
Earlier this year, the House approved a manufacturing competitiveness package that included the SAFE Banking provision, but it was not included in the Senate version and has since been dropped from the compromise legislation.
The banking provision gives safe harbor to financial institutions to enter into relationships with state-licensed marijuana-related businesses. Currently, financial institutions are discouraged from providing services to these businesses. According to the most recent financial information provided by the US Treasury Department, only about ten percent of all banks and roughly four percent of all credit unions provide services to licensed cannabis-related businesses.
NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.