The U.S. House on Wednesday passed a bill that would protect banks working with state-legal marijuana companies from federal regulatory penalties, allowing the largely cash-only legal marijuana to move towards other payment options.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act passed the House, with all Massachusetts representatives voting in favor, by a 321-103 vote.. Federal banking regulators could not "prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a depository institution from providing financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider" under the bill and could not terminate or limit deposit insurance.

The National Cannabis Business Association said the bill, if passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Donald Trump, "will pave the way for legal cannabis businesses to access the same financial services that other legal industries take for granted — from depository services to traditional lending."

Because marijuana remains wholly illegal at the federal level, businesses have struggled to find banks, most of which operate under federal regulations and with federal insurance, willing to accept them as customers.

Earlier this week, as the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission was working to finalize regulations for home delivery of marijuana, Gov. Charlie Baker said he was concerned about delivery drivers carrying up to $10,000 cash and said he wished Congress would act to make the industry safer.

"I still think the first thing we need to do is — and we've had conversations with both Republicans and Democrats in Washington about this — is to take the cash, to the extent that we can, out of the system and have this treated the same way other industries deal with financial transactions," Baker told reporters Monday afternoon.

~ Colin A. Young/SHNS

Recommended for you