After months of attempting to gain GOP congressional support, the House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday protecting financial institutions from criminal prosecution for working with marijuana businesses.

“By approving the SAFE Banking Act, more than two-thirds of the House affirmatively acknowledged that legalization and regulation of the marijuana marketplace is preferable to criminalization,” said Justin Strekal, political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Republicans are becoming increasingly open toward the marijuana industry – 91 Republicans joined 229 Democrats in taking a historic vote to approve the cannabis banking bill.

The SAFE Banking Act represents the shifting politics of cannabis. The bill, which is now in the hands of the Senate, received nearly unanimous Democratic approval and around half of all Republican votes. The bill would protect banks from federal prosecution in states where pot is legal, however, the federal prohibition on the sale of marijuana continues. In addition to protecting financial institutions for cannabis-related transactions, the bill also directs federal regulators to create banking-supervision rules.

Cannabis is currently a cash business with limited small banking institution funding. Neil Levine CEO of Cannabis Trade Federation stated, “The SAFE Banking Act will ensure state-legal cannabis businesses and their employees have access to the same basic banking and financial services that are available to other legal industries. Allowing the cannabis industry to access banking services will reduce its reliance on cash and greatly improve safety for cannabis businesses, employees, and consumers. It will also increase transparency and help law enforcement deter and detect illegal operations.” 

The protection is limited to the 11 recreational and 22 medicinal cannabis-legal states.