The U.S. Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on Thursday to discuss the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would give the cannabis industry access to traditional banking services. The bill, reintroduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., has bipartisan support and aims to address the challenges faced by small businesses and workers in the cannabis industry due to the lack of access to banking services.

Witnesses at the hearing included lawmakers from all sides of the aisle and representatives from organizations such as the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition and the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Committee hearing’s purpose was to solicit addition information on the SAFE Banking Act, which aims to provide legal protection for banks that serve cannabis-related businesses in states where it is legal. In lieu of federal banking legislation, banks have been hesitant to work with cannabis companies due to the drug’s federal status as a Schedule I substance. This has left many cannabis businesses unable to access basic financial services such as checking accounts and loans.

Currently, under federal law, banks and credit unions face penalties if they provide services to legal cannabis businesses, as cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, on par with the likes of heroin and LSD. The Schedule I status also explicitly implied that cannabis has no medicinal value, despite the fact medical marijuana is used by millions of patients daily for a variety of …

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