The House sponsor of a marijuana banking bill says he recently spoke with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at an event at the White House and discussed the need to enact the bipartisan reform this session.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said that he impressed upon the leader the importance of his Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has cleared the House in some form seven times only to be held up in the Senate under Republican and Democratic control. Schumer, the congressman said, assured him that the chamber is “working on it” and is “going to get going” on the reform.
“Whether that was just lip service or reality, there is momentum,” Perlmutter, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, told KOA radio. “We’re going to get this done. It probably won’t happen until the lame duck session after the elections, but I’ve always felt confident that commonsense will prevail and we’ll get this finished, and I think we will.”
“If we allow legal [marijuana] businesses to have legal banking services, it only makes sense and it helps us in a public safety way so people don’t get killed—so that somebody in a dispensary isn’t held up and shot,” the congressman said.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) September 21, 2022
While Schumer and colleagues filed a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill in July, it’s not expected to be taken up this session given the challenge of reaching the 60-vote threshold to pass through the Senate. But the leader is still intent on bringing some kind of marijuana reform legislation to the floor in the coming months.
Lawmakers have signaled that the bill will contain protections for banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses, as well as other modest proposals to facilitate expungements, provide medical cannabis access for military veterans, promote research and more.
Nothing has been finalized at this point, however. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently said that he expects the so-called “SAFE Plus” bill to be introduced sometime after the November midterms, and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) told Marijuana Moment that he felt the timeline for a filing would likely fall between November and December.
The conversation between Schumer and Perlmutter at the White House last week happened at an event on inflation reduction and happened to coincide with the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) lobby days, with over 100 marijuana business leaders on Capitol Hill to push for the passage of the SAFE Banking Act.
Perlmutter said at an NCIA-organized press conference last Wednesday that he’s increasingly tempted to “go to the nuclear option” in the House Rules Committee of “holding up” separate legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in order to get the marijuana banking measure enacted.
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The congressman and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the Senate sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, also outlined next steps for the cannabis banking reform at a briefing organized by the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) in July.
Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC) released a paper in August that outlined what they view as shortcomings of the standalone SAFE Banking Act and recommended several amendments to bolster its equity impact.
Booker said at an event organized by CRCC that the standalone legislation “requires changes” if it’s going to advance before cannabis is federally legalized.
The senator initially signaled that he was coming around to marijuana banking reform (contingent on equity provisions) at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing in July that he convened as chairman.
Meanwhile, Perlmutter also said in a recent interview that he feels the introduction of the Senate legalization bill alone means that lawmakers have overcome a legislative “hurdle” that’s kept SAFE Banking from advancing in the chamber.
On Monday, the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) agreed to reaffirm its support for a resolution calling on Congress to enact a federal marijuana banking fix.
A recent poll found that Republican voters are on board with a number of marijuana reform proposals—from banking to medical cannabis legalization to expungements for prior marijuana convictions to letting states set their own policies without federal interference.
According to a poll from Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) that was released this month, a majority of American voters (65 percent) support allowing banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses—and most people believe it will both improve public safety and promote social equity.
The survey results are consistent with the findings of a separate poll from the American Bankers Association (ABA) that was released in March. It also showed that 65 percent of Americans back the marijuana banking reform.
Separately, the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently voted to adopt a revised policy directive that expresses support for federal marijuana descheduling and cannabis banking reform amid the state-level legalization movement.