On Friday, the House voted 222-210 to pass the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (America COMPETES) Act (H.R. 4521), a bill aimed at investing in domestic research and development to improve U.S. global competitiveness. Notably, the bill included an amendment that incorporated the Safe and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, authored by Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), which provides protections for banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses.
While the House passage was praised by Perlmutter and other cannabis banking advocates, the amendment faces a much tougher path in the Senate. The Senate obstacle largely comes from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who himself is working on a more comprehensive cannabis legalization bill that also addresses equity issues around past cannabis criminalization. Nevertheless, Perlmutter commented after the House passage that “we have initiated conversations with Schumer’s office…anything else—any criminal justice reform, any tax reform, any research elements—those are all bonuses, and we would look at them in a very positive light.” The Senate has already passed its related version of the COMPETES Act, and that legislation does not contain any cannabis banking language. As such, it remains to be seen what will come out of the resulting bicameral negotiations to merge the two versions of the legislation into something to send to President Biden’s desk.