Lawmakers, advocates and stakeholders across the spectrum are reacting to Wednesday’s committee passage of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill—with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pledging to bring it to the floor “very soon” and a group of four GOP senators vowing to kill the legislation. Just before the Senate Banking Committee approved the Secure
The post Schumer Pledges To Bring Committee-Passed Marijuana Banking BIll To Floor ‘Very Soon’ As GOP Senators Vow To Kill It appeared first on Marijuana Moment.
Lawmakers, advocates and stakeholders across the spectrum are reacting to Wednesday’s committee passage of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill—with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pledging to bring it to the floor “very soon” and a group of four GOP senators vowing to kill the legislation.
Just before the Senate Banking Committee approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, Schumer committed to bring the bill “to the floor for a vote as quickly as possible.”
“Our SAFER Banking Act will connect cannabis businesses, especially ones in minority and underserved communities, to find to traditional financial resources like bank accounts and small business loans, creating a safer and more transparent environment for the industry to grow,” he said. “Now is the time to get it done.”
On the eve of the vote, however, Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) led a letter to leadership that argued the reform would result in the cannabis industry producing higher potency products that would be harmful to youth and compromise “the integrity of the United States banking system.”
The SAFER Banking Act would increase for higher THC potency marijuana products. It’s NOT safe. Joined w/ @JohnCornyn, @SenTedBuddNC & @SenatorLankford to tell Senate leaders we’ll oppose any package they try to sneak it into. https://t.co/yKX5yHfAaU
— Senator Pete Ricketts (@SenatorRicketts) September 26, 2023
The Republican lawmakers wrote that the bill, which now heads to the floor, “would do nothing to address the public safety threat inherently posed by the existence of marijuana dispensaries.”
“The SAFER Banking Act is sold as an easy banking fix. In reality, the legislation is fatally flawed and its consequences are complex and sweeping,” the senators wrote. “We will remain opposed to liberalizing drug laws and will fight the SAFER Banking Act to protect our youth from dangerous policies that would result in increased promotion of marijuana use.”
The letter—which was also signed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Budd (R-NC) and James Lankford (R-OK)—further calls for Justice Department testimony on the legislation before it advances any further.
Their opposition comes as 10 more Democratic senators joined the list of cosponsors on the revised SAFER Banking Act that was introduced last week, raising the total to 22—nearly one-fourth of the Senate. By and large, lawmakers across the aisle have applauded the bill’s passage, even if some are pushing for additional changes.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, spoke at the committee after the vote on Wednesday, congratulating the chairman for his work “on a complicated topic that doesn’t seem like it should be so complicated.”
Today is the day! @SenateBanking is voting on the SAFER Banking Act—a huge step toward finally passing this bill and making sure all legal cannabis businesses can access the standard financial services they need to keep their employees, businesses, and communities safe.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 27, 2023
He touted the measure’s various provisions and said he would like to see it amended on the floor to incorporate legislation to facilitate cannabis expungements and protect gun rights for marijuana consumers, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to do.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and lead sponsors of a previously filed House companion version, said in a joint statement on Wednesday that the “legislation will save lives and livelihoods.”
“The overwhelming majority of Americans live in a state where cannabis is legal in some form,” they said. “It is common sense and an urgent matter of public safety that these legitimate cannabis businesses have access to standard banking services. We applaud the Senate for holding today’s committee vote.”
The bill that cleared committee was slightly revised during the markup to make mostly technical changes, but lawmakers say they will continue to amend it, including as it concerns provisions related to broader banking regulations that Republicans hope to use to prevent discriminatory enforcement against industries like the firearms trade.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)—who along with SAFER Banking’s GOP lead sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced a bill last week to prevent federal marijuana rescheduling without congressional approval—told Punchbowl on Tuesday that the banking measure is “still under negotiation,” and she anticipates “the negotiations will continue” after the vote.
Meanwhile, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC) and Parabola Center sent a letter to committee leaders on Wednesday, urging further revisions to ensure the bill is “equity-centered, justice-oriented and designed to promote fairness and designed with the intention of addressing past inequities and preventing future inequities.”
We joined @DrugPolicyOrg and @CRC_Coalition to continue to urge reforms to SAFE(r) so the most harmed communities aren’t systematically denied access to financial services. We remain neutral on the bill and hope to see further improvements.
Our letter: https://t.co/ixERI6XXWL
— Parabola Center (@ParabolaCenter) September 27, 2023
“By acknowledging the progress we’ve made and clearly identifying issues that remain unaddressed, we hope to continue to work with Congress and other stakeholders to ensure equity remains the center of marijuana policy reform and thank the ongoing efforts of advocacy organizations and policymakers to ensure that marijuana banking reform is fair,” the groups wrote.
Here’s how other advocates and stakeholders are reacting to the committee vote:
“This bipartisan legislation represents an improved version of the SAFE Banking Act,” NORML Political Director Morgan Fox said. “It allows state-licensed cannabis businesses to more easily access financial services, such as opening a simple bank account, and it provides entrepreneurs with greater access to lending and other services that are available to other legal businesses.”
“Marijuana businesses’ lack of access to these necessary financial services creates serious threats to the safety of cannabis consumers and the employees that serve them, limits transparency and accountability for those operating in this legal industry, and severely hinders the ability of small businesses to effectively compete with the underground market and with larger well-funded companies,” he said.
National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR)
“Today’s action is not only historic but also is at a time where it could not be more urgently needed to help the regulated cannabis industry in 38 states be able to compete against the growing threat of an illicit market that greatly risks public safety and consumer safety,” NCR Executive Director Saphira Galoob said.
“We are heartened to see broad bipartisan support move this bill out of committee, and we look forward to momentum and support continuing to build as it moves to the Senate Floor and ultimately to the House, which has previously overwhelmingly passed the bill—at long last getting this critical measure signed into law this Congress,” she said.
U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC)
“Today’s vote by the Senate Banking Committee marks the first time that cannabis banking reform has been passed out of a Senate committee,” USCC SVP of Public Affairs David Culver said. “This marks a critical step toward securing banking access for the nation’s $30+ billion licensed cannabis industry, which supports over 400,000 full-time jobs across the country.”
Today’s vote by the Senate Banking Comm. marks the first time that cannabis banking reform has been passed out of a Senate committee. This marks a critical step toward securing banking access for the nation’s licensed cannabis industry, which supports 400k+ jobs across the US.
— US Cannabis Council (@USCannabisCncl) September 27, 2023
“The House has previously passed the SAFE Banking Act seven times, but the Senate has stopped short in the past. The primary obstacle was that SAFE had not advanced through regular order. With today’s vote, that obstacle is history,” he said. “The updated SAFER Banking Act is now in a strong position to be passed on the Senate floor, either as a stand-alone bill or part of a larger package. This is where our focus will remain.”
“With today’s committee passage of the SAFE Banking Act, and thanks to the leadership of Senators Schumer and Booker who have fought tenaciously to ensure that the HOPE Act will receive a vote as an amendment when bill gets to the floor, we have a real opportunity to thoughtfully advance both modest industry and criminal legal reforms in a meaningful way, setting the precedent that we all do better when we all do better,” BOWL PAC Founder Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment.
(Disclosure: Strekal supports Marijuana Moment’s work through a monthly pledge on Patreon.)
National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
“The committee’s approval of the SAFER Banking Act which gives hope to thousands of compliant, tax-paying businesses desperately trying to access the basic financial services other businesses take for granted,” NCIA CEO Aaron Smith said. “This uniquely bipartisan legislation has the potential to save lives and help small businesses; it’s time for Congress to get it to the president’s desk without further delay.”
“As Congress works to establish the necessary guardrails around cannabis legalization, the labor and safety interests of workers must be paramount,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a letter to committee leaders last week that was promoted on Wednesday. “Passing SAFER banking is a necessary part of this process and can help improve working conditions while easing operational burdens for employers across the country.”