Senators have “probably found a sweet spot” in negotiations over a bipartisan marijuana banking bill, with an agreement to to leave a section favored by Republicans “intact, as it is,” according to one GOP member of the Senate Banking Committee.
As that panel prepares to hold a markup of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act next week, details about the revised bill are slowly surfacing. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told Politico that one of the remaining sticking points appears to have been resolved, with a deal to keep a section dealing with broad banking regulations, as Republicans have insisted.
He said that the lack of substantive changes to the bill as introduced “demonstrates that we’ve been at this a little while and probably have found the sweet spot in passing a piece of legislation.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who also serves on the Banking Committee and previously raised concerns about the provision, said that senators have “talked extensively about Section 10, and we’ve made some progress.” However, he didn’t specify what that progress looks like.
“I think we’ve resolved most of the issues we had—and I hope we have so we can get it out of the committee with a strong vote,” he said.
With the committee scheduled to vote on the SAFE Banking Act on September 27, time is running thin for any additional changes to the base bill. Senators spent the August recess negotiating it, and members came back generally optimistic about its prospects.
That includes Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the lead GOP sponsor of the legislation. Marijuana Moment reached out to each of their offices for clarification about a Section 10 deal, but representatives were not immediately available.
Some senators and stakeholders have also discussed different changes they’d like to see concerning Small Business Administration (SBA) access and stock uplisting for the cannabis industry.
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Schumer and others have discussed plans to amend the legislation on the floor to adopt “critical” criminal justice provisions such as expungements for prior marijuana convictions, calling broader effort to repair the harms of the drug war a “moral responsibility” for Congress.
A spokesperson Daines told Marijuana Moment in July that he is “open” to including the additional reform provision, even as he’s cautioned Democrats against significantly expanding the bill’s scope in a way that could jeopardize GOP support. As a standalone in its current form, insiders say the measure has enough Republican buy-in to reach the 60-vote threshold needed for passage in the Senate.
On Tuesday, a coalition of 35 cannabis trade associations, drug policy reform groups and a top national labor union called on Congress to help address the “humanitarian toll” of robberies targeting cash-intensive marijuana businesses by passing the SAFE Banking Act “this year.”
The American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH)—along with trade groups representing marijuana businesses in 16 states plus Washington, D.C.—also sent a letter to Brown and Banking Committee Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) in July, imploring them to pass the cannabis banking bill “without further delay.”
Also, the American Bankers Association (ABA) also renewed its call for the passage of the legislation. And all 50 of its state chapters did the same, as did insurance and union organizations, in recent letters to congressional leadership.
July also marked the 10-year anniversary since the introduction of the first version of what is now known as the SAFE Banking Act.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) separately said in a recent letter to President Joe Biden that he should throw his support behind the congressional push for marijuana banking reform as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) begins its review of cannabis scheduling after receiving a rescheduling recommendation from the top federal health agency.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.