Cannabis Safe Harbor Passes House as Part of America COMPETES Act

The Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, one of PIA’s top legislative priorities, was passed in the House of Representatives on February 4 by a vote of 222-210 after being incorporated into the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act of 2022, a bill that aims to improve American competitiveness in the production and trade of in-demand goods like semiconductors.

The SAFE Banking Act already passed the House twice earlier this Congress: once as a standalone bill and once as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Unfortunately, the Senate has not scheduled a vote on the standalone bill, and it was stripped out of the NDAA before its Senate passage. Despite the Senate’s resistance, PIA and our allies have continued to support the passage of the SAFE Banking Act this Congress.

Why is the SAFE Banking Act important for agents?

The SAFE Banking Act would protect insurance agents and carriers from federal prosecution for doing business with cannabis-related enterprises in states in which such businesses are legal. The bill would also make it easier for banks to offer financial services to business participants in the cannabis industry. PIA has been working with a coalition of industry allies in support of this legislation and successfully ensure that key insurance-specific protections were included.

Nearly every state has legalized cannabis to some degree. PIA’s position is respectful of state insurance laws; we seek to protect independent agents from criminal prosecution for engaging in business activities that are legal according to state law.

Legislative outlook

The America COMPETES Act of 2022 is the House companion to the Senate’s version, which passed in June. The House has passed it, but the House version differs from the Senate’s in some significant ways, so differences will need to be negotiated between the chambers at some point in a conference committee, in which members of the two chambers work together to resolve the differences between each chamber’s version of the bill.

The SAFE Banking Act may not survive a conference committee’s efforts to resolve the chambers’ differences. Key Senate Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have resisted bipartisan calls to pass the SAFE Banking Act. Rather, Sen. Schumer and allies insist that any legislative effort to legalize the cannabis industry’s use of banking or insurance services be part of a broader effort to enact criminal justice reform.

PIA supports the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in the America COMPETES Act of 2022, and we will continue our efforts toward the passage of the SAFE Banking Act this Congress.