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McConnell ‘Continues To Oppose Marijuana Banking,’ His Office Says As Another Senate Aide Faults GOP Leadership For Derailing Reform Plans



Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “continues to oppose marijuana banking,” a spokesperson for his office told Marijuana Moment on Monday.

And another Senate source says that GOP leadership’s opposition to the reform as a policy matter is obstructing the path to advancing the cannabis measure as part of must-pass aviation legislation—rather than being it being a question of germaneness to the aviation bill, as one top industry group claimed last week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has repeatedly described the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act as a top legislative priority for the remainder of the session. But given that he’s stressed it will require bipartisan cooperation, McConnell’s opposition raises questions about the bill’s prospects of being enacted this year.

Supporters are hoping that Senate Republicans who have championed the cannabis legislation—including the bill’s chief GOP sponsor Sen. Steve Daines (R-MO)—will make their case to McConnell to allow it to advance without obstruction. But the minority leader has a history of proactive opposition to the reform, with Schumer blaming him in 2022 for blocking it from being attached to a separate must-pass defense bill, for example.

Marijuana Moment asked McConnell’s office about where the leader stands on the idea of moving cannabis banking and cryptocurrency regulation legislation as part of a package alongside a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The spokesperson said simply: “Leader McConnell continues to oppose marijuana banking.”

Daines’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the time of publication.

Last week, the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) distributed an internal email to members that Marijuana Moment obtained, advising that plans to attach the SAFER Banking Act to the FAA bill had fallen apart, largely because there was an agreement that it was not germane to the aviation proposal.

But a Senate source told Marijuana Moment on Monday that wasn’t the case. Germaneness wasn’t the issue; rather, GOP leadership’s opposition to the cannabis banking reform itself was to blame, they said.

There are still options on the table to move the SAFER Banking Act, and supporters aren’t giving up hope just yet that McConnell—who championed provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill to federally legalize hemp—can be swayed to let it move.

Of course, it’s Schumer who controls the agenda and can bring it to a vote at any point. But McConnell has long been known as a gatekeeper on the GOP end, and his position on the reform proposal could make the difference in terms of the cannabis banking bill reaching the steep 60 vote threshold to advance toward passage.

The bipartisan support for the bill is evident, however. Just last week, the Republican vice chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. French Hill (R-AR) said he would support a hybrid marijuana banking and cryptocurrency regulation bill, saying “our country will benefit” if both reforms are enacted.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), separately said that “now is the time” to pass cannabis banking reform, and she’s “hopeful” lawmakers will “overcome” any potential challenge from McConnell as they work to advance the legislation.

Meanwhile, last week 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.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 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.

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.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

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.”

Top GOP Congressman Backs Passing Marijuana Banking Bill Paired With Cryptocurrency Reform, Saying ‘Our Country Will Benefit’

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