On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Financial Services appropriations bill for Fiscal 2020 that contains language from the SAFE Banking Act (SAFE Act) to allow the banking industry to service marijuana related businesses.  The provision survived an attempt by several Republicans to pass an amendment that would strip the bill of its SAFE Act language. 

Congressmen Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Hal Rogers (R-Alabama), and John Carter (R-Texas) were among the members who rose in opposition and argued the bill would further complicate the marijuana regulatory framework and fail to bring certainty to businesses.  The Republicans pointed out the banking system is inextricably linked from interstate commerce that falls under jurisdiction of federal law.  While the majority of states have legalized marijuana in various capacities, the drug remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substance Act.  Therefore, Republicans argue cannabis banking would remain legally ambiguous, even with passage of the SAFE Act.

Despite this short-term victory for advocates of the SAFE Act, the bill is struggling to make headway in the Senate.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) was noted last week for his comment that marijuana should be decriminalized under federal law before granting special exemptions for the banking industry.  It appears Republicans are not eager to pass legislation on behalf of the cannabis industry and Minority Leader Schumer is not supportive of the approach laid out in the SAFE Act either. The bill is unlikely to surmount bipartisan opposition in the upper chamber.