The act would protect Big “I" members from criminal and civil liability and provide clarity for transactions involving legitimate cannabis-related businesses.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs voted on the “Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act of 2023" (SAFER Banking Act), which passed in a bipartisan 14-9 vote, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has expressed interest in scheduling floor time for the bill to receive a vote in the U.S. Senate.
The SAFER Banking Act was introduced to the committee on Sept. 20 by a bipartisan group of senators after making a few changes to the earlier version, the “Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act" (SAFE Act).
Under federal law, the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is illegal except for some limited research purposes. However, at the state level, all but four states permit medical marijuana use in some capacity, and several states now allow for marijuana to be sold for recreational purposes.
The SAFER Banking Act includes language that creates a “safe harbor" for agents and brokers who, of their own accord, choose to do business with legitimate cannabis-related businesses. This legislation would protect Big “I" members from criminal and civil liability and provide clarity for transactions involving these businesses.
Prior to the Senate markup, the Big “I" worked to ensure that “insurance producers" would be considered a business permitted to provide financial services or other ancillary services to cannabis-related businesses. A group of insurance trade associations, including the Big “I," sent a letter of support to Senate offices thanking them for including needed clarity for insurance transactions related to cannabis that are otherwise permissible under state law and urging them to vote in favor of the bill.
While similar bipartisan cannabis legislation has previously been introduced into Congress, this is the first time the Senate has acted on this bill. It will also be the first time a cannabis bill will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Stakeholders are hoping that legislative efforts will meet more success during this Congress. However, no related legislation has been introduced in the House yet, where it is unlikely to be considered.
As any cannabis-related legislation makes its way through Congress, the Big “I" will continue to provide members with updates in the weekly News & Views e-newsletter.
Corey Miller is Big “I" director of federal government affairs.