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For legal marijuana businesses, paying bills such as taxes can be tricky because many of them are forced to operate without a business banking account.

Banks are regulated by the federal government, and while individual states may legalize marijuana, medical or otherwise, the federal government still considers it an illegal drug. Hence, banks are reluctant to take on clients in the cannabis industry.

That may be changing. The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act by a vote of 321-103, to protect banks and credit unions that do business with legal marijuana enterprises. As The Hill reports, however, the measure’s fate in the U.S. Senate is unclear.

“While the bill faces an uncertain future in a Republican-held Senate that is skeptical of easing drug laws, the House’s approval marks a major step toward settling the vast differences between federal and state cannabis regulation,” The Hill writer Sylvan Lane reported.

“American voters have spoken and continue to speak, and the fact is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s sponsor. “Prohibition is over. Our bill is focused solely on taking cash off the streets and making our community safer.”

Thirty-three states, including New Jersey, have legalized medical use of the drug and 11 of them have approved recreational use of the drug. An effort to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Jersey did not get enough support to pass this spring, but the Senate is expected to vote again on the measure this year after the November Assembly elections.

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