Democrats say excitement for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has been building after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended that marijuana be downgraded from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III.
“What happened on Schedule III was good, another potential breakthrough,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.
“We’re moving to finally end the days of ‘Reefer Madness,’” Wyden continued. “The federal government just been behind on pot.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the HHS decision “a recognition of reality.”
“The idea that you’ve got marijuana legal in over half the states, and yet at the federal level, it’s still categorized in the same category as heroin, it seems a bit out of touch with the science,” Warner said.
The SAFE Banking Act would give federally regulated banks and credit unions legal cover to take cannabis dispensaries and growers as customers. Financial institutions have been hesitant to serve state-legal cannabis businesses because of the federal ban on the drug.
While 38 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, the possession, distribution or sale of cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. As a result, legally operating cannabis businesses are often denied access to banks.
Proponents of the bill say the SAFE Banking Act would help legally operating businesses avoid the headaches and safety risks of dealing only in cash without affecting the legal status of cannabis beyond states where it’s legal.
We have more in a full report at TheHill.com.