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Key Congresswoman Says ‘Now Is The Time’ To Pass Marijuana Banking Bill, Despite McConnell’s ‘Concerns’



A top Democratic congresswoman says that “now is the time” to pass marijuana banking reform, and she’s “hopeful” lawmakers will “overcome” any potential challenge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as they work to advance the legislation.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, was asked about possible vehicles for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday.

The congresswoman said she’s been “working very well together” with Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) over the last two years to develop a separate cryptocurrency regulations bill that some lawmakers have discussed merging with the marijuana banking measure.

Waters also acknowledged discussions about attaching the cannabis banking and stablecoin proposals to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

“Now is the time, and I want you to know that those of us who have worked with [Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)], we want very much to have SAFER Banking,” she said. “I know that there may be some concerns with McConnell, but I am hopeful that we can overcome that because you’re absolutely right, we’ve got to have SAFER Banking, and most of us who have been working on this support that.”

Watch Waters discuss the SAFER Banking Act, starting around 15:30 into the video below: 

McConnell has long opposed marijuana reform efforts, including earlier versions of the cannabis banking bill. In late 2022, Schumer specifically blamed the minority leader for tanking the legislation when supporters were considering putting it in a large-scale defense bill. And McConnell later bragged about the defeat.

But he hasn’t publicly weighed in on the revised SAFER Banking Act, even as it moved through the Senate Banking Committee last September. And it’s unclear how much influence his opposition would carry if Schumer does put it on the floor.

On Tuesday, Schumer once again included the bipartisan marijuana banking bill in a list of legislative priorities he hopes to advance this year.

Since the Senate recently approved must-pass appropriations legislation and foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, there are heightened expectations that floor action could be on the horizon.

Adding to those expectations is the recent introduction of a bill to incentivize expungements for past cannabis offenses at the state, local and tribal levels. Schumer has made clear he intends to attach that measure to the banking legislation on the floor.

Schumer also recently asked people to show their support for the SAFER Banking Act by signing a petition as he steps up his push for the legislation. A poll released last month by the American Bankers Association (ABA) shows that roughly three out of five Americans support allowing marijuana industry access to the banking system.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) said that that “if Republicans want to keep the House,” they should pass the marijuana banking bill, arguing that “there are votes” to approve it.

Schumer told Marijuana Moment last month that the bill remains a “very high priority” for the Senate, and members are having “very productive” bicameral talks to reach a final agreement.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also said last month that passing the SAFER Banking Act off the floor is a “high priority.” However, he also recently said in a separate interview that advancing the legislation is complicated by current House dynamics.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) separately said during a recent American Bankers Association (ABA) summit that he wants to see the SAFER Banking Act move.

He said that, “for whatever reason, the federal government has been slow” to act on the incremental reform that he supports even though he doesn’t identify as “a marijuana guy.”

One key factor that’s kept the bill from the Senate floor is disagreement over mostly non-cannabis provisions dealing with broader banking regulations, primarily those contained in Section 10 of the legislation.

Bicameral negotiations have been ongoing, however, and recent reporting suggests that a final deal could be just over the horizon.

The Democratic Senate sponsor of the SAFER Banking Act, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), told Marijuana Moment last month that the legislation is “gaining momentum” as lawmakers work to bring it to the floor and pass it “this year.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment last week that, “every day we’re closer on SAFE Banking, and negotiations “are ongoing in the House and Senate, and we are, in fact, making progress.”

At the close of the first half of the 118th Congress in December, Schumer said in a floor speech that lawmakers would “hit the ground running” in 2024, aiming to build on bipartisan progress on several key issues, including marijuana banking reform—though he noted it “won’t be easy.”

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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