A Democratic congressman says he will again attempt to add language federally protecting banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses to the next coronavirus relief package.
“I plan on asking that. Whether it gets in there or not, we’ll see how that works,” Rep Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, told Yahoo Finance Live. He added that he also intends to advance the proposal as a standalone bill if necessary.
Perlmutter noted that, last session, the House passed his cannabis proposal as standalone legislation, but “the Senate sat on it, so the Senate’s go to get busy and work on this subject.” The measure also advanced twice through the House as part of COVID relief, and it was included in a proposal from then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that did not get a vote.
“We’ve got to align [federal and state laws] because … it’s difficult for some cannabis related businesses to have legitimate banking relationships … and then there has to be some criminal justice reform attached to that,” @RepPerlmutter says about the legalization of cannabis. pic.twitter.com/hiu7E8tYkh
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) February 2, 2021
He also mentioned that the House approved a comprehensive legalization bill—the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act—last year.
With Democrats now in control of both chambers of Congress, the chances of passing either his more narrowly tailored financial services legislation or broader cannabis reform are significantly improved.
“The Senate may take up a broader version” of marijuana reform, Perlmutter said, “and we’ll deal with that if they could ever move something out of the Senate, which is where the roadblock has been.”
Already, the newly installed Democratic Senate leadership has made clear that marijuana reform will be prioritized this year, with Schumer, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announcing on Monday that they will soon be releasing draft legalization legislation and soliciting feedback on the proposal.
But in the meantime, Perlmutter says his cannabis banking bill is still in play.
The congressman said that the goal of his proposal is to give marijuana businesses access to financial services that are available to other markets, but “there has to be some criminal justice reform attached to that as well because so many people over the years have been subject to different kinds of violations and crimes that have really caused difficult records for these folks, and we need to clean up a lot of this.”
“We’ve got to align the laws because banking laws are generally under the federal umbrella, and the banking laws, it’s difficult for some cannabis companies and cannabis related businesses to have legitimate banking relationships so we want to get that part straightened out,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wyden recently discussed the Finance Committee’s role in advancing marijuana reform this session, saying his objective will be to “end the prohibition and come up with sensible tax and regulatory oversight at the federal level.”
“This is a framework that I’ve championed, and I’ll be championing it as chairman,” the senator said. “You do that and you take care of the banking question, you take care of the tax question, you take care of the research issue and this whole array of issues that have been gridlocked because the federal government on cannabis has been tethered to yesteryear. That has been the central problem.”