A bipartisan group of senators is pushing to include federal marijuana banking reform into comprehensive legislation intended to support the country’s manufacturing industry and supply chains.
Sen. Patty Murray, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, wants to include the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act into the US Innovation and Competition Act, which recently cleared the Senate.
The SAFE Banking would allow financial institutions to service state-legal cannabusinesses without the threat of federal intervention. The House included the measure in its version of the US Innovation and Competition Act, which is known as the Competes Act, when it approved the legislation in February. This marked the sixth time the House had approved of cannabis banking reform in one form or another.
Murray is determined to get it included in the final Senate version of the competition bill.
“This is a cash-only business right now. It’s dangerous for the employees,” said Murray. “It’s dangerous for the patrons, and it can be fixed.”
She has the support of several senators ready to insist that Senate leadership add marijuana banking reform before giving final approval to the US Innovation and Competition Act.
“The bottom line is that banking bill’s been out there for a long time. It’s ready to go. It needs to pass,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act.
Sen. Steve Daines is one of nine Senate Republicans that are co-sponsors of the bill, and he believes there are other GOP members who could get on board.
“We’ve got nine Republican co-sponsors officially on it, close to 50 Democrats,” Daines said. “There are some other Republicans that I’m confident, if we had a vote, would vote for it. So, we’ve got the votes to pass the SAFE Banking Act as a standalone, if we’d like to.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has so far refused to hold a vote on the SAFE Banking Act in the belief that this would slow progress towards more comprehensive federal cannabis reform that includes social equity provisions, namely the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity (CAO) Act, of which he is the lead sponsor.
However, after several delays in unveiling the final draft of the CAO, marijuana industry stakeholders are concerned there isn’t enough time to pass federal cannabis reform this legislative session, which would mean further uncertainty and risk for marijuana business owners, employees and customers.
“Clearly it’s not aimed for passage this Congress if it’s coming out in August,” said Steven Hawkins, president of the US. Cannabis Council. “Even if it comes out sooner than that, it’s too late in the calendar year. So what that means is we really have an open playing field to push for passage of SAFE.”
Hawkins pointed to the recent wave of violent robberies targeting marijuana retailers in Washington State as a clear indication that something needs to be done to remedy the current impasse.
“I think there needs to be more concern because right now this is an untenable situation,” he said. “People should not be in a position where they go to work and are not certain they’re going to come home to their families, and that’s what we’re faced with right now.”
He’s joined by a coalition of banking association representing all 50 state that wrote a letter to Senate leadership urging action on cannabis banking reform to reduce the risk of robberies and facilitate more transparent and secure finances in the marijuana industry.
“The inability of the state-licensed cannabis industry to access safe and regulated financial services is a pressing concern for so many of our nation’s communities and the banks that serve them,” the banking groups said in a letter to Senate leadership.