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National Conference Of State Legislatures Calls On Congress To Pass Marijuana Banking Bill As Part Of Unrelated Package As Lawmakers Have Discussed



A group that represents state lawmakers across the U.S. is calling on Congress to “quickly” attach a bipartisan marijuana banking bill to unrelated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation and pass the reform.

In a letter sent to House and Senate leadership on Wednesday, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said lawmakers should move forward with plans to use the FAA measure as a vehicle for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act.

“The inability of legal state cannabis businesses to receive financial services from the federal banking system creates an unsafe position for these legal entities, as well as taxation and compliance problems for states that have exercised their authority to legalize cannabis,” NCSL CEO Tim Storey wrote to the congressional lawmakers.

“The SAFER Banking Act would provide much-needed banking resources to these legitimate businesses and help facilitate secure, simpler and more enforceable business activity in nearly every state,” he said.

While the vast majority of states have enacted some form of cannabis legalization, “legitimate business owners must continue to rely on cash-only cannabis transactions,” the letter says.

“This exchange increases the real risk that they, their employees and customers become prime targets for theft, burglary, armed robbery and other crimes that jeopardize the safety of person and property, as well as endanger the greater communities where your constituents live and work and these businesses operate,” it says.

NCSL, which represents the legislatures of states and territories across the country, has long advocated for cannabis banking reform, and it also voted to adopt a policy position in favor of federal marijuana descheduling in 2022.

“Cannabis will remain illegal under the SAFER Banking Act, and we strongly believe that supporting this legislation is not akin to endorsing its legalization under federal or state law. Instead, support for this act would help to resolve the long-standing tension between federal and state law with respect to banking and other financial services by allowing financial institutions to provide services to these legal businesses without penalty. The legislation would help reduce threats to public safety, enable better monitoring of the financial activity and enforcement of legal cannabis businesses, and demonstrate respect for state authority to legislate in this area.”

Congressional lawmakers from across the aisle have been weighing in on the prospects of the SAFER Banking Act—sharing predictions about the prospects of passage, different legislative vehicles to advance the reform

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the GOP sponsor of the cannabis banking bill, reiterated in an interview with The Dales Report that he believes Congress is in “the best spot we’ve ever been in getting SAFE Banking across the finish line.”

Bipartisan members have also been discussing the possibility of combining cryptocurrency regulation legislation with the marijuana banking bill as part of a potential add to the FAA reauthorization, which must pass by May 10.

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 Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently reiterated his intent to pass legislation to “safeguard cannabis banking” as part of a “busy agenda” that he hopes to achieve in the “weeks and months ahead,” though he again stressed the need for bipartisan cooperation.

He 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 last week 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) 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.”

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.”

Meanwhile, a Democratic senator on Wednesday pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland about the marijuana banking bill, seeking his perspective on a controversial section concerning broader financial regulations.

Garland said he wasn’t familiar with Section 10 of the SAFER Banking Act, but he agreed in theory that the provision could be problematic if it meant people suspected of committing financial crimes could be tipped off in the midst of an investigation. However, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) noted that the language was revised following negotiations and no longer constitutes a threat as amended.

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