Cannabis banking legislation moves forward in US Senate

By Arunima Kumar and Sourasis Bose

(Reuters) -A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday voted to advance a marijuana banking bill, raising hopes for the cash-dependent cannabis sector to get access to regular banking services.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act (SAFER) bill, introduced by a bipartisan group of senators last week, will now move to the Senate floor.

Most banks in the country do not service cannabis companies as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level despite several states legalizing its medicinal and recreational use.

The new bill seeks to ensure that all businesses — including state-sanctioned cannabis businesses — will have access to deposit accounts, insurance and other financial services.

Shares of SNDL, Trulieve Cannabis, Cronos Group rose between 1% and 3% following the vote.

U.S. cannabis-related ETF AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF gained 1.4%.

“We are hopeful that the revised language and clearer guidelines for financial institutions will continue to break through the many unproductive hurdles that have prolonged the passage of this bill for far too long,” said cannabis firm Acreage Holdings.

An earlier version of the bill, the SAFE Banking Act, had failed to secure a Senate vote despite the House of Representatives passing it seven times.

“Realizing this first vote out of the Senate signals strong bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended easing restrictions on marijuana. The agency suggested classifying the substance to a Schedule III drug from Schedule I.

The recommendation was provided to the Drug Enforcement Agency, which has the final authority on rescheduling.

(Reporting by Arunima Kumar and Sourasis Bose in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)