What’s most exciting about the new pot banking bill

Most states have legalized recreational and medical use of marijuana, which is at odds with federal law. This creates complications even for financial institutions that do not engage in pot banking directly. But the latest effort to provide financial institutions that serve the marijuana industry with safe harbor at the federal level is one that advocates consider their best chance for success yet. Here’s what executives at banks and credit unions should know.

Pot banking advocates are excited about what they believe is their best chance yet at a federal law that allows financial institutions to serve the marijuana businesses more easily.

The Senate Banking Committee passed the SAFER Banking Act by a vote of 14-9 in September, clearing it for a vote on the Senate floor. This marks a key milestone for legislation offering federal protection to banks and credit unions serving state-sanctioned marijuana businesses. A pot banking bill has never made so much progress in the Senate before, and it has advocates feeling cautiously optimistic that they may finally have the momentum needed for success.

The House of Representatives has approved the particulars of the original bill, called the SAFE Banking Act, repeatedly since it was first introduced in 2013, whether in standalone form or attached to other legislation.

SAFER is the Senate version, which was introduced on Sept. 21 and was approved by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with amendments on Sept. 27. It is bipartisan legislation introduced by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. Language added to the bill by Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., helped it garner support from three Republicans (out of 11) on the Banking Committee. Democrats hold a narrow majority on the committee (12 to 11) and in the Senate.


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