Rep. Huffman Applauds House Approval of Landmark Cannabis Bill, Calls on Congress to Take Additional Steps to End Prohibition

September 25, 2019

Washington, D.C.-Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) voted for the SAFE Banking Act today, a bipartisan bill to allow cannabis-related businesses to work with financial institutions in the states and territories where some form of recreational or medical marijuana use has been legalized. This bill, which passed the House 321-103, helps to address a significant public safety issue in California, as those working in the cannabis industry often operate as cash-only businesses and are targets of crime.

Today Congress took an important step to eliminate one of the many harmful repercussions of federal marijuana prohibition,” said Rep. Huffman, an original cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act. “This is crucial for people across the North Coast who are complying with state law and have been shut out from financial services. The SAFE Banking Act will help to bring the industry out of the shadows, and should dramatically improve public safety. This is a big piece of the puzzle—but it’s still just one piece. Congress must take more comprehensive steps to decriminalize and deschedule, to protect states like California that are now regulating marijuana for adult recreational use, and to right the ongoing wrongs affecting the millions of Americans with criminal convictions for marijuana-related offenses. We have an opportunity to heed the lessons of Prohibition, and to get many of the lives affected by marijuana criminalization back on track. We should seize it.

In addition to reducing the public safety impacts of cash-only businesses, the SAFE Banking Act will help address inequities in the cannabis industry, allowing anyone legally operating under state law to access traditional credit union and banking services, and not restricting the industry to those who can self-fund or access private investments.

A significant majority of Americans now favors marijuana legalization: 62% according to the most recent Pew study. Despite a steady increase in public support in recent years, it remains a federal crime to buy or sell marijuana, and marijuana possession is one of the single largest arrest categories nationally according to FBI data.

Rep. Huffman is a cosponsor of several bills to address the broader issues of decriminalization, all of which would remove marijuana as a narcotic listed under the Controlled Substances Act:

  • The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), bipartisan legislation that would expunge records for prior marijuana offenses, and appropriate funds for reentry services and job training for those who have been incarcerated. 
  • The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, introduced by Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), which would authorize grant programs to encourage state and local governments to administer expungement programs for marijuana possession convictions, fund traffic safety research to address impaired driving, and establish dedicated funding for women and minority-owned small businesses in the industry.
  • The Marijuana Justice Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), to automatically expunge the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, provide for a judge’s review of marijuana-related sentences, and reinvest in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund.

In addition to these important reforms, Rep. Huffman has also worked to address the immediate threats to the environment and public safety posed by illegal trespass growing operations, which threaten visitors to public lands, steal water and contaminate streams with unlawful pesticide and fertilizer use, and kill wildlife on a landscape scale. His Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act would establish a partnership of federal, state, and local entities to clean up and restore federal public lands in northwestern California degraded by illegal trespass marijuana grows.