Pot banking measure revived in Dems' coronavirus relief package

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WASHINGTON — The sprawling coronavius relief bill released by House Democrats Tuesday includes a provision that could breathe new life into a legislative effort thought to be dead just months ago: pot banking.

Unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, proposes $3 trillion in relief measures to further shore up the finances of consumers, small businesses and government across the country in the wake of the cornavirus pandemic.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado said that a pot banking bill he sponsored last year would be rolled into the coronavirus relief package unveiled by House Democrats Tuesday. Cannabis distributors and growers "need relief just like any other legitimate business," he wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado said that a pot banking bill he sponsored last year would be rolled into the coronavirus relief package unveiled by House Democrats Tuesday. Cannabis distributors and growers "need relief just like any other legitimate business," he wrote on Twitter.

But buried in the 1,800-page document is a measure that would effectively enact the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a bill proposed last year that would give a safe harbor to financial institutions that work with cannabis companies in states where the substance has been legalized.

In its current form, the relief package as a whole will likely face long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, amid concerns by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about the country's mounting deficit.

The addition of a pot banking provision is also unlikely to sit well with Senate Republicans. The SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House last September in a 321-103 vote but sat in legislative limbo until December, when Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho announced he had “significant concerns” with the bill and would prevent it from receiving a vote in the Senate.

Under section 110606 of Tuesday's relief bill, federal bank regulators would be unable to “terminate or limit the deposit insurance” or “take any other adverse action” against banks for working with legal cannabis companies, overruling the substance’s federal designation as an illicit drug.

Regulators would also be unable to “recommend, incentivize, or encourage a depository institution not to offer financial services to an account holder, or to downgrade or cancel the financial services offered to an account holder solely because” of a business connection to cannabis, the text reads.

The SAFE Act was first introduced on its own to Congress in early 2019 by House Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. On Tuesday, Perlmutter announced on Twitter that his bill would be folded into the House Democrat’s latest pandemic relief package.

“I have been pushing for this because the #COVID19 crisis has only exacerbated the risk posed to cannabis businesses & their employees & they need relief just like any other legitimate business,” he wrote.

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