The latest version of Congress’s defense bill has left out a number of provisions that were in the House-approved National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including the much-anticipated marijuana banking reform known as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
Although the House had passed a version of the NDAA in September that included language to protect banking and financial institutions that work with state-legal cannabis companies, that part of the deal was dropped with Tuesday’s bicameral decision.
Reaction from cannabis advocates was swift.
“We are disappointed that cannabis reform was among a number of important provisions in the House-approved National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that were not included in the latest version of the bill,” said Steven Hawkins, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council, in a statement emailed to Benzinga.
“We see the consequences every day of the lack of banking access, from the rash of dispensary robberies to the ongoing challenges of minority and small business owners to secure capital. The SAFE Banking Act would provide urgently needed relief to cannabis businesses of all sizes and put wind in the sails of the broader push to end federal cannabis prohibition.”
The SAFE Banking Act, which would essentially shield banks that work with the cannabis industry from federal criminal prosecution, is viewed as a major threshold for the industry. The hope was that attaching the banking bill to the already approved NDAA would give it a good push over the finish line. Not to mention that the SAFE banking act has had steady bipartisan support.
Though this development is viewed as a setback, some say it is still possible that the newly negotiated legislation could be further revised.
Marijuana Moment reported that the House Rules Committee is expected to take up the measure on Tuesday and that Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), chief sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act will file an amendment to add his cannabis provisions to the bill.
“The Senate insists on burying its head in the sand and denying every opportunity to reform our outdated cannabis laws to align state and federal law to improve public safety,” Ashley Verville, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter, said. “As a result, Rep. Perlmutter plans to file an amendment to the NDAA at the Rules Committee which would add the SAFE Banking Act back to the bill.”
Cannabis Banking Is Not Alone
The new defense bill also dropped an NDAA amendment that would have facilitated the application process for cannabis researchers and a bid to federally legalize medical cannabis for U.S. military veterans.