On Tuesday March 26th, the House Financial Services Committee will be convening for a markup of H.R. 1598, the SAFE (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Banking Act of 2019. During the markup process, committee members will consider any proposed amendments and then vote on a motion to order the bill reported to the House where it can be considered by the full House of Representatives.
The SAFE Banking Act, sponsored by Representative Ed Perlmutter and cosponsored by 143 of his House colleagues, would protect financial institutions providing services to state legal cannabis businesses from federal money laundering and drug charge prosecution. This would connect the largely cash-only cannabis economy in legal states with the same financial services that normal businesses are allowed to access from bank accounts to loans. While helping other states where cannabis is already state-legal in some form, this bill would also address one of Governor Holcomb’s concerns about legalizing cannabis in Indiana.
“What I don’t subscribe to is this cash-only business and what I’ve seen, the ripple-effects that it’s had on other states,” he stated in an interview with WANE in December of 2017, a line which he has repeated numerous times since then. While this reform would undoubtedly leave many areas Governor Holcomb would like to see addressed at the federal level untouched, it would clear up one hurdle as well as demonstrate that cannabis reform legislation can in fact be passed by Congress and provide momentum for addressing the issue at the core of this problem: cannabis’ status within the Controlled Substances Act resulting in total federal prohibition and severe restrictions on clinical research within the United States.
When the SAFE Banking Act is reviewed in the House Financial Services Committee, one U.S. Representative from Indiana will be there during the process: Representative Trey Hollingsworth (R-09). Hollingsworth has served on the Financial Services Committee since his first term began in 2017. While Hollingsworth hasn’t made any commitments in favor or against this Act, there doesn’t appear to be a hard Republican Party line on the issue.
Some Republicans serving on this committee have expressed concern about tackling the issue of banking before addressing the federal prohibition first. Representative Patrick McHenry and Blaine Luetkemeyer expressed their issues with the legislation to Chairwoman Maxine Walters in a joint letter: “As you know, marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance,” they wrote. “The impact that many state laws, which have legalized marijuana, have on the federal laws governing the manufacturing, use, and sale of marijuana, including proceeds, raise many questions and concerns. Any change to these statutes, or those that impact them, has the potential to divide the Congress and the country. We must ensure that Congress has done its due diligence, including conducting thorough oversight and review, before moving such legislation.”
On the other hand, of the bill’s 143 cosponsors, 12 are Republican, meaning that 6% of the House’s 197 Republican members have their names officially on the bill. For those living in the 9th Congressional District (which includes Bloomington, Franklin, New Albany, and parts of Greenwood) wishing to contact Hollingsworth and request that he support this bill, emails can be sent by constituents via the following form, or constituents can call one of his offices via the following contact information: