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Marijuana Banking Sponsor Says He’s In Amendment Talks With Senate Leader As House Passes Reform For Sixth Time



The House sponsor of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill revealed on Friday that conversations have been happening behind the scenes with Senate leadership about amending his legislation in a way that more specifically addresses equity issues to win their support. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) made the comments to Marijuana Moment just hours before the House passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act for the sixth time as part of a large-scale bill.

Members voted 222-210 to pass the manufacturing and innovation bill—the America COMPETES Act—to which the cannabis banking measure was attached via an amendment on Thursday.

While advocates have reason to be skeptical about whether the Senate will follow suit given leadership’s insistence on passing comprehensive legalization first, Perlmutter said that he’s been in talks about revising the legislation in a way that could assuage the concerns of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and colleagues.

“We have initiated conversations” with Schumer’s and Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) offices, the congressman said in response to a question from Marijuana Moment at a press briefing.

“I’ve had discussions with [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)] as to places where, if they’re interested in X, Y or Z, we certainly would be interested in X, Y and Z. It’s just time to pass something that rationalizes the banking.”

“Anything else—any criminal justice reform, any tax reform, any research elements—those are all bonuses, and we would look at them in a very positive light,” Perlmutter said.

The conversations started even before the last time the House passed the SAFE Banking Act through its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), he said. But those discussions didn’t produce results in time, as the banking language was removed following bicameral negotiations, and Perlmutter placed much of the blame on Schumer.

The Senate already passed its related version of the new innovation bill, with a focus on competing with China on trade, and that legislation does not contain the cannabis banking language. It remains to be seen what will come out of the resulting bicameral negotiations to merge the two forms of the legislation into something to send to the president’s desk.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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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Schumer recently reiterated that he would be amenable to advancing the banking reform if certain amendments are added to further promote equity. But while Perlmutter said he’s open to it, he also cautioned that changing the bipartisan bill too much with new equity provisions could end up spurring some Republican members, including from key players like House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC), to vigorously oppose passage, thus losing needed support from that side of the aisle.

McHenry “is not supporting the bill, but he hasn’t been a roadblock to us continuing to offer it as an amendment,” the sponsor said.

“There are a lot of people and a lot of moving parts to this stuff. And the more we add, the the more likely he is to kind of be the roadblock to an amendment,” Perlmutter said. “So you’ve got to take into consideration a number of different players as you move forward on something.”

The congressman was also asked whether he’s spoken to Pelosi about personally advocating for keeping banking in the large-scale manufacturing and innovation bill to which it was attached in bicameral conference. He said, “yes I have and yes she will.”

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who participated in the pen-and-pad alongside Perlmutter, said there is agreement in passing “targeted, bipartisan cannabis reforms like” the SAFE Banking Act, as well as a bill he’s sponsoring with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to incentive states to expunge marijuana records.

The reforms “can—and should—pass this otherwise divided Congress,” he said.

Other Republicans are scratching their heads about how Democrats have so far failed to pass the modest banking reform with majorities in both chambers and control of the White House, too. For example, Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized his Democratic colleagues over the issue in December.

In the interim, federal financial regulator Rodney Hood—a board member and former chairman of the federal National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)—recently said that marijuana legalization is not a question of “if” but “when,” and he’s again offering advice on how to navigate the federal-state conflict that has left many banks reluctant to work with cannabis businesses.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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