Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says a bipartisan marijuana banking will pass “decisively” out of his panel next week, as senators discuss possible tweaks on its path to the floor and anti-drug advocates decry the reform as a public safety hazard. The revised Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act that’s due
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Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says a bipartisan marijuana banking will pass “decisively” out of his panel next week, as senators discuss possible tweaks on its path to the floor and anti-drug advocates decry the reform as a public safety hazard.
The revised Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act that’s due for a committee markup next Wednesday might not enjoy the same level of support as other unrelated bills that recently moved out of the panel, but Brown told Ask a Pol’s Matt Laslo that he still expects a “strong majority” will approve it.
The chairman said he isn’t anticipating “many amendments” when it reaches the floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has committed to attaching changes related to state-level cannabis expungements and gun rights for medical cannabis patients—but beyond that, Brown said generally “there will be enough agreement that we will keep the bill together and make minor changes.”
— @askapol (@ask_a_pol) September 22, 2023
He did mention another possible amendment related to a “credit card bank issue,” but it’s unclear what he’s specifically referring to.
While lawmakers struck an agreement on the revised SAFER Banking Act following months of bipartisan negotiations, there still appear to be some sticking points that could come to a head down the line.
For example, Politico reported on Thursday that there are still outstanding concerns among certain members over a section of the bill dealing with broad banking regulations. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, has apparently raised concerns about changes to Section 10, which is meant to prevent discriminatory enforcement action against politically controversial industries like the firearms trade. It’s possible that Banking Committee members will see a proposed amendment to strike certain language from Section 10 when they convene for next week’s markup.
It’s official: the Committee will consider the SAFER Banking Act on Wednesday, September 27.
The bipartisan SAFER Banking Act will ensure that small businesses in the cannabis industry can access banking and other financial services and keep their workers safe.
— Senate Banking and Housing Democrats (@SenateBanking) September 20, 2023
Other Republican members, including SAFER Banking Act’s lead GOP sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), appear satisfied with the revisions they were able to secure in recent negotiations.
In a statement on Thursday, Daines touted provisions of the legislation that he said would protect firearm and energy companies in Montana “from the Left’s woke agenda.” For what its worth, his office has also said that the senator is open to attaching expungements provisions, as Schumer has proposed.
Daines and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), meanwhile, filed legislation on Thursday that would prevent federal agencies from rescheduling cannabis without tacit approval from Congress.
In a statement previewing the bill on Wednesday, Lummis also talked about her cosponsorship of the SAFER Banking Act and her interest in using it as a vehicle to advance banking regulatory protections for gun and energy businesses in her state of Wyoming.
Thanks to woke ESG initiatives, gun manufacturers and energy companies risk losing access to bank accounts every day. The SAFER Banking Act will protect these legal businesses and ensure the federal government can’t pick winners or losers. My statement below: pic.twitter.com/qa2zqgnwSv
— Senator Cynthia Lummis (@SenLummis) September 22, 2023
“The SAFER Banking Act prohibits federal bank regulators from ordering a bank or credit union to close an account based on reputation risk, which will protect energy companies and gun manufacturers from attacks from the left that threaten their business each day,” she said. “All legal businesses should have access to bank accounts, and this legislation ensures the federal government cannot pick winners and losers when it comes to providing access to financial services.”
The senator also told Ask a Pol that she personally doesn’t want to see Wyoming move to legalize—in part because she thinks “it just doesn’t smell good” and “stinks.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), meanwhile, said on Wednesday that her state of Nevada has “been a leader in regulating legal cannabis businesses since 2017. This industry has created thousands of jobs & brought in millions in revenue.”
NV’s been a leader in regulating legal cannabis businesses since 2017. This industry has created thousands of jobs & brought in millions in revenue.
I’m proud to help introduce a bipartisan bill to give legally operating cannabis businesses access to the banking tools they need.
— Senator Jacky Rosen (@SenJackyRosen) September 21, 2023
“I’m proud to help introduce a bipartisan bill to give legally operating cannabis businesses access to the banking tools they need,” she said.
As these conversations among lawmakers are taking place, a national anti-drug group is reprising its role as an opponent of the incremental banking legislation, urging its base to contact their representative and implore them to vote against the SAFER Banking Act.
In an email blast on Friday, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) argued that the legislation “would allow banks to accept the federally illegal proceeds from the sale of marijuana,” and that would “set a precedent to allow other federally illegal industries to gain access to the banking system.”
“Additionally, granting marijuana businesses access to the banking system will make it easier for them to do business, exacerbating the negative consequences of marijuana proliferation, including increased traffic fatalities, youth use rates, ER visits and hospitalizations,” CADCA said, encouraging supporters to send their representatives a pre-written letter opposing the cannabis banking bill.
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The group, which previously advocated against a congressional cannabis legalization bill last year, made similar arguments in an email blast about the as-introduced version of the banking legislation in June.
Meanwhile, Schumer also sent out a campaign email on Tuesday that called on supporters to join him in demanding that the federal government legalize marijuana.
So far this session, no marijuana legalization bill has been filed on the Senate side this session, though Schumer did previously champion a comprehensive reform bill that ultimately did not advance during the last Congress.
But a bill to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis was filed by House Democrats on Wednesday. However, its prospects are dubious given GOP control of the chamber.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis/Side Pocket Images.