On Tuesday, a House Oversight Committee held a subcommittee hearing on vaping, and on Wednesday a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee also held a hearing on vaping. The CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat in the House Oversight Subcommittee hearing said, “The epidemic is moving faster than our data gathering; we really are losing people in the meantime.” Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health announced the tenth U.S. death from a vaping-related illness.
We don’t know a lot about what these vaping-related illnesses have in common, but we do know that several of these cases are THC related, including an Oregon case where the THC was purchased from a state-legal, state-regulated, state-tested dispensary. Vaping is a growing mechanism for marijuana consumption. The DEA reports that 25% of high school students who used marijuana in 2017 vaped it.
In spite of this crisis and Congress’ acknowledgement that this is an issue, Wednesday the House passed H.R. 1595, the SAFE Banking Act of 2019 (SAFE Act). The SAFE Act would legitimize the marijuana industry financially and give marijuana businesses access to the federal banking system. It would also grant investors access to this billion-dollar industry without incorporating any regulations or guidance for this growing industry. If enacted, this bill will enable a massive flow of financial investment in this illegal industry that is currently under national scrutiny with absolutely ZERO regard for public health. The FDA is working hard to find a solution to the vaping crisis; the SAFE Act would exacerbate it.
Banks are prohibited from being involved in activities involving illegally obtained funds, also known as money laundering. Because of marijuana’s federally illegal status, even if states legalize marijuana, banks are still committing a federal crime by financially entangling themselves with marijuana businesses and are still liable to federal prosecution. If the SAFE Act is enacted, marijuana will still be illegal, but banks will now have the approval of the government to participate in money laundering. This would also be the first time the United States banking industry was opened to Schedule I drug operations and would set an alarming and dangerous precedent of granting banking access to criminal activity. This bill sidesteps common sense and merely gives banks permission to engage in marijuana-related activities. Put another way, the SAFE Act gives banks the green light to facilitate federal crime.
321 Representatives voted for this. Click here to find out if your representative voted to give the marijuana industry access to the U.S. financial system. If he/she did, tell your representative you are disappointed with his/her vote.
This bill now goes to the Senate, and although we don’t anticipate this exact bill coming to the floor for a vote, we do think there will be a vote giving the marijuana industry access to the U.S. financial system at some point. Please call your Senators and tell them to oppose the SAFE Banking Act and any other measure that would give the marijuana industry access to the financial system.