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About a quarter of voting members of the U.S. Senate have joined forces to urge congressional leaders to enact marijuana banking provisions into law as part of the large-scale manufacturing bill, the America COMPETES Act.
The group of 24 senators from both sides of the aisle have lined up behind an idea that the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act would “help cannabis-related businesses, support innovation, create jobs, and strengthen public safety in our communities.”
Once passed, the bill would allow banks and financial institutions to accept business from cannabis companies that comply with state regulations. It would also protect banks from being penalized under federal banking regulations.
“The cannabis industry has become a powerful job creator and a significant generator of tax revenue,” the lawmakers, led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), wrote in a letter to the congressional leaders. “However, financial institutions are often reluctant to transact with cannabis-related businesses, even in states that have some form of legalized cannabis, due to legal and regulatory risks arising from inconsistent federal and state laws. Allowing cannabis businesses operating legally and in compliance with state law to access financial services without federal reprisal would address public safety and compliance challenges, helping communities reduce cash-motivated crimes.”
The letter was also signed by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Hickenlooper, (D-CO) and Chris Coons (D-DE).
“Enacting the SAFE Banking Act via the jobs and competitiveness legislation before us would support a rapidly growing industry that creates jobs, fosters innovation, supports small businesses, and raises revenue in states that have chosen to legalize cannabis while reducing safety risks to industry employees and the public alike,” continued the letter.
Efforts behind the SAFE Banking Act
So far, the SAFE Banking Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), has managed to pass the U.S. House six times in the last three years. The bill, which Rep. Perlmutter attached as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act earlier this year, still needs to pass the Senate.
Many cannabis industry experts agree that the bill has a better chance of passing than the MORE Act, which seeks to legalize cannabis on the federal level.
A the end of April, Perlmutter and Earl Blumenauer (D) sent a letter to a bicameral conference committee asking for the inclusion of marijuana banking reform in the final America COMPETES Act, which is going to be discussed by bicameral negotiators on Thursday.
Other officials followed suit. The bipartisan duo, Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser (D) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R), sent a separate letter to U.S. Senate leadership demanding the passage of the banking measure last month.
Sen. Chuck Schumer’s marijuana legalization attempts
In the meantime, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is working on a separate cannabis legalization measure. He recently postponed the filing of his comprehensive marijuana reform proposal from April to sometime before the August recess. Shortly after that, he confirmed the deadline again with a promise that he would respect the timeline.
“Make no mistake, I’m working diligently with my Senate colleagues to make sure that the federal government catches up. This bill will be comprehensive, and I promise we will introduce this important legislation before the August recess,” the Senate Majority Leader said last month at the National Cannabis Policy Summit.
Schumer and fellow Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden introduced the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA) outline in July 2021.
The proposal includes plans to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge prior weed convictions and allow people who are serving time for applicable crimes to petition for resentencing.
In addition, states would retain their rights to set their own marijuana policies and help those who’ve been criminalized over the cannabis plant.