The Senate Banking Committee is expected to hold a vote this month on a bill that would make it easier for financial institutions to serve legal cannabis businesses, Politico and Bloomberg reported Friday.
The bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which has been touted as the solution to the largely cash-based nature of the cannabis industry, is scheduled for a committee vote Sept. 27.
While some form of use is legal in 40 states and Washington, D.C., cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, meaning most banks are unwilling to serve the industry. Proponents for the SAFE Banking Act say the lack of access to banking services is a safety issue, as most cannabis dispensaries are forced to deal in cash, making them targets for theft.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, last month called the legislation a priority, adding lawmakers were “making good progress.”
The remarks have given cannabis and banking industry stakeholders hope the measure could finally gain ground in a chamber where it has historically stalled.
The bill, which was first introduced 10 years ago, has passed in the House seven times but has yet to pass in the Senate.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-MT, who, alongside Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, introduced the Senate’s version of the bill, told NBC News last week he is “cautiously optimistic” about SAFE’s prospects, adding he believes the legislation has “enough votes to get it passed.”
Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-OH, also struck an optimistic tone, telling Marijuana Moment last week that despite some minor outlying issues, “we hope to get people onboard and get a strong vote.”
While the bill’s goal to help the cannabis industry enter the banking fold has garnered support from both sides of the aisle, several lawmakers have been at odds over some of the bill’s details.
Section 10, a portion of SAFE Banking that addresses requirements for deposit account termination requests and orders, has been flagged as too broad by Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, who said the language should only address cannabis-related businesses.
The text was added to the bill in 2019 to curry favor with Republicans who feared banks could use the legislation to deny lending to borrowers connected to controversial industries such as gun manufacturers and payday lenders, according to Politico.
Reed, however, has argued the broad nature of the text would prevent regulators from cracking down on bad actors who pose actual risks to banks.
Lawmakers’ push to get the cannabis banking bill in front of a full Senate vote comes amid broader cannabis reform efforts.
A bill reintroduced in April by Reps. Dave Joyce, R-OH, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, seeks to expunge cannabis misdemeanor convictions.
The Biden administration also has its eye on cannabis reform.
President Joe Biden last October announced an executive action to pardon all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, and encouraged governors to follow suit with regard to state offenses.
The White House also urged the secretary of health and human services and the Justice Department to review cannabis’ designation as a Schedule 1 drug.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify cannabis to a lower-risk, Schedule III substance, The Washington Post reported last month.
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