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Congressman Says He’s Finally Overcome Marijuana Banking ‘Hurdle’ With Introduction Of Senate Legalization Bill

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The House sponsor of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill says that the recent introduction of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) federal legalization measure is the “hurdle” that lawmakers needed to overcome to finally pass his more modest reform legislation.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) has been adamant about getting the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act enacted before he retires from Congress at the end of this session. But while it’s passed in the House seven times in some form, it’s stalled in the Senate under both Republican and Democratic leadership.

Now that Schumer and colleagues have filed their wide-ranging legalization bill, Perlmutter told KOA NewRadio in Denver on Tuesday that there’s a clearer path to passage for the banking legislation.

“I think we may have just overcome our hurdle last week to getting this passed,” Perlmutter said, referencing the filing of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). “I think we’ll get it passed.”

Listen to Perlmutter discuss the path forward for the SAFE Banking Act in the audio below: 

Schumer and other lawmakers like Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have been viewed as obstacles to putting the SAFE Banking Act to a vote in the Senate. They’ve insisted on attempting to pass comprehensive cannabis reform that includes equity provisions first before they would entertain advancing the incremental policy change.

Perlmutter said that there are many laudable provisions of the leader’s proposal, but “the trouble is they don’t have the votes to pass that sweeping a piece of legislation.” That’s generally been the understanding among lawmakers, stakeholders and advocates who have been quick to point out that reaching the 60-vote threshold to pass the bill in the Senate is unlikely given the lack of consensus among Democrats and the likely opposition of Republicans.

“I think the fact they introduced something, [means] now we can really get to work [and] get the votes,” he said.

The third-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Assistant Majority Leader Patty Murray (D-WA) signed on to CAOA following its introduction, but in a statement, she also stressed that lawmakers must enact the bipartisan banking bill in the interim.

In the new radio interview, Perlmutter again signaled that while the SAFE Banking Act is a priority, he also believes there’s enough bipartisan support to combine that legislation with other incremental reforms dealing with cannabis research, federal Small Business Administration (SBA) access for state marijuana industries and more.

Schumer has been discussing the idea of advancing a passable alternative package of incremental reforms including those proposals if the Senate is unwilling to approve CAOA.

“I think there’s a real opportunity to pass not as sweeping a piece of legislation as Schumer has introduced, but something that really will benefit the industry and make things safer,” Perlmutter said.

And while the congressman is dead set on passing the marijuana banking bill before he retires early next year—either as a standalone or amendment to other legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to which it’s been attached and passed in the House—he did identify one GOP colleague who he said could lead on the issue if it stalls before he leaves office: Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who is a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“This has been a very bipartisan effort between me and a number of different Republicans,” he said. “David Joyce is a congressman from Ohio, and I think he will pick up the mantle. He’s been helping really talk to Republicans in the Senate. He’s worked with his colleagues in the House, and I think he’ll end up picking up the mantle and get this across the finish line.”

That said, “I’m gonna get it across the finish line,” the congressman said.

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