The lead GOP Senate sponsor of a marijuana banking bill wants bankers to “unleash and army” of lobbyists on Capitol Hill to push for the passage of the reform legislation through the Senate this Congress.
During a speech at the American Bankers Association (ABA) Washington Summit on Tuesday, the senator talked next steps for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act that he’s working to advance alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other lawmakers.
Daines said he believes there’s a “chance” it can pass under regular order in the Senate by going through the committee process.
“This bill has been out there a long time,” he said. “I think with each passing year, there’s a greater number of people who understand that the problem—forcing businesses to operate in all cash—is only getting worse. We need to be very clear: this is a public safety bill, and the longer we go without addressing this issue, the worse the situation on the ground becomes.”
Asked whether he thinks the banking bill could garner even more cosponsors than last session, when it had nearly half of the Senate signed on, Daines told the audience of about 2,000 bankers that it’s an area “where I need your help.”
“I think this is a lot about educating folks on an issue. This is not about whether you support legalization or not. This is not some kind of proxy vote for endorsing federal legalization of marijuana,” the senator said. “It’s totally unrelated. What this is about is solving a problem that’s facing our financial service businesses, our legal cannabis businesses” and other ancillary industries, from plumbers to brokers.
He added that he’s “very thankful” for the support of bankers, saying “we could unleash an army of you all in this room on Capitol Hill” to advocate for the passage of the cannabis banking bill.
Two new speakers have been added to the lineup at next week’s #ABASummit in DC.@SenateBanking @BankingGOP member and #SAFEBanking Act co-sponsor Sen. @SteveDaines will share his perspective on the bill as well as current issues facing the banking sector and policymakers.
— American Bankers Association (@ABABankers) March 16, 2023
“I think it’s educate, it’s educate, it’s educate. Reach out to your members of Congress. Where you can, connect the dots in your state and your request,” he said.
The senator urged the audience to ask their representatives to cosponsor the SAFE Banking Act, while also building a coalition of supporters in law enforcement to drive home the point to lawmakers that this legislation is about public safety.
“Remember, this is called the SAFE Banking bill. It’s not about cannabis,” he said. It’s about safety and trying to reduce the crime that’s exploding in our communities as a result of too much cash.”
Daines said recently that the original plan was to reintroduce the SAFE Banking Act before the Senate’s Easter recess—but the timing has become less certain after a recent banking collapse that has distracted the attention of members of the relevant committee of jurisdiction.
The senator made the new comments on the same day that a coalition of cannabis industry associations sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee leadership, urging a swift action on the bipartisan banking legislation, which has cleared the House multiple times in past sessions only to stall in the Senate.
@NCIAorg @USCannabisCncl @MinCannBusAssoc @nhccouncil @FollowNCR stand united in this call for urgent action by Congress on #SAFEBanking & addressing access to capital issues for the state-legal cannabis industry. #SAFECantWait
— National Cannabis Roundtable (@FollowNCR) March 21, 2023
The National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR), National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and National Hispanic Cannabis Council (NHCC) led the letter to Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC).
They groups said that the committee should “immediately schedule a hearing to discuss the lack of access to banking and other financial resources that is harming the U.S. cannabis industry, and advance bipartisan legislation expeditiously to improve public safety and provide much-needed access to capital to these businesses.”
ABA has been advocating for the banking legislation for years, and it released a poll last year that found 65 percent of Americans want to see a fix to the cannabis banking problem.
Advocates and industry stakeholders have run low on patience with the Senate after leadership failed to pass the banking reform, along with other modest proposals on issues like expungements, as part of the so-called SAFE Plus package last session.
Schumer said last week that he’s still committed to moving the legislation with Daines, even with a divided Congress where Republicans control the House.
After last year’s election, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said that he believed it could take “many years from now” to pass cannabis legislation if Democrats didn’t get the job done during the lame duck session.
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Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in December that while he still opposes the banking proposal, he wouldn’t stand in its way.
The White House was asked in January where President Joe Biden stands on marijuana banking reform, and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the ball is in Congress’s court, with no current plans for administrative action to resolve the issue.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who is also speaking at ABA’s summit, said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing last week that regulators are separately exploring options to address the cannabis banking issue.
Last year, she said that it’s “extremely frustrating” that Congress has so far been unable to pass legislation like the SAFE Banking Act and that Treasury is “supportive” of the proposal.
“We have talked about it for a very long time, and I agree with you: It’s an important issue—and it’s an extremely frustrating one that we haven’t been able to resolve it,” she said at a House committee hearing.