A key U.S. House committee voted resoundingly Thursday to provide federal protection for financial institutions that serve state-authorized marijuana and ancillary businesses, a landmark development for cannabis banking legislation.

The House Financial Services Committee voted 45-15 to advance the bill, the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, after amending it to include provisions to provide a safe harbor for insurance companies and improve access of financial services to minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses.

The full House is expected to vote on the bill within weeks.

Banks generally balk at servicing the marijuana industry, leaving a large portion of state-legal businesses to operate on a cash-only basis, which creates security, money laundering and other criminal concerns. The measure would address that difficulty while helping cannabis businesses that have struggled to obtain the financing needed for operations and expansion.

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