U.S. House Adds SAFE Banking to Defense Spending Package

As cash pertains to cannabis, the supermajority consensus in the U.S. House of Representatives is that regulators should not penalize depository institutions for providing banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses.

That consensus was unveiled during a 321-101 vote in April, when the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act cruised to bipartisan passage in the lower chamber, which has indicated time, and time again, that the government has a responsibility to provide safe harbor to financial institutions servicing the industry.

But that was a standalone bill, which has yet to make progress in the Senate.

The question on Sept. 21 in the House was whether SAFE Banking should be attached as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) spending package for fiscal 2022.

While Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., supported SAFE Banking as a standalone bill five months ago, he said Tuesday night it had no business hitching a ride with NDAA. Rogers is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, which works hand in hand with NDAA.

“This is a fine piece of legislation in a standalone fashion,” Rogers said. “In fact, I voted for the gentleman’s standalone bill. I think what he’s trying to accomplish is admirable and should be accomplished, but not in the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Majority opinion steered from Rogers opposition, as SAFE Banking passed by a voice vote as the first amendment to be added to the NDAA package. It marks the fifth time the act has passed in the House.

In the last Congress, the lower chamber overwhelmingly passed a standalone version of SAFE Banking in 2019, and then House members passed the measure two more times as part of coronavirus relief bills in 2020. But the legislation stalled, in part because former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., never acted on calendaring it for floor debate in the upper chamber.

Office of the Clerk, U.S. HouseRep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., speaks on SAFE Banking Tuesday night on the House floor. 

In his opening remarks Tuesday as the chief author of the bill, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., offered the amendment as the identical version of the standalone act that passed in April.

“This will strengthen the security of our financial system in our country by keeping bad actors like foreign cartels out of the cannabis industry,” he said. “But most importantly, this amendment will reduce the risk of violent crime in our communities. By dealing in all cash, these businesses and their employees become targets for robbery, assaults, burglaries and more.”

Perlmutter said getting cash off the streets would improve safety in communities. In his home state, Perlmutter referenced Travis Mason, a 24-year-old husband and father of three when he was working as a security guard and killed during a 2016 robbery attempt at Green Heart dispensary in Aurora. Mason was a Marine veteran.

After Rogers said language in SAFE Banking is not related to NDAA, Perlmutter reminded him that the matter was deemed germane by a parliamentarian.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said the

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