Conference Committee Next Step for Cannabis Safe Harbor

In February, the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, the passage of which is one of PIA’s top legislative priorities, passed the House of Representatives after being included in 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 by increasing domestic production and trade of in-demand goods like semiconductors.

In April, House and Senate majority leaders announced the members named to the conference committee that will be tasked with reconciling the differences between the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the House-passed America COMPETES Act. Unlike America COMPETES, the USICA bill did not incorporate the provisions of the SAFE Banking Act.

Resolving that conflict, among others, is the task of the conference committee, which will begin to negotiate later this month. As of this writing, at least a few Senators on both sides of the aisle appear poised to support the inclusion of SAFE Banking in the conference legislation, and overall support for SAFE Banking Act has been growing over time.

Why this issue matters to agents

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 have insisted 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. This position has kept the SAFE Banking Act from advancing in the Senate, despite the fact that the House has passed it—both as a standalone measure and as part of larger legislative vehicles—three times this in Congress alone.

However, several influential Democrats are encouraging the conference committee to include the SAFE Banking Act in its final product. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a key member of the conference committee, has stated her intent to prioritize the survival of the SAFE Banking Act in the final bill.

House Democrats are also increasing their efforts to include the SAFE Banking provisions in the final bill. House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a member of the conference committee, listed it as a priority. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) also sent House and Senate leadership a letter asking that the SAFE Banking provisions be included in the final measure.

The conference process to resolve the differences between the two versions of the COMPETES Act is expected to last for several months. As the remaining work of the 117th Congress continues, PIA will keep advocating for the inclusion of the SAFE Banking provisions in the final bill.