A group that represents state lawmakers across the U.S. is urging Senate leaders to pass a bipartisan marijuana banking bill to provide a “much-needed solution” to the “unsafe and untenable” challenges that the cannabis industry faces under prohibition.
In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) CEO Tim Storey expressed the organization’s support for the revised Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act that was formally introduced last week and is scheduled for a Senate Banking Committee markup on Wednesday.
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 last year.
“The inability of legal cannabis businesses to receive financial services from the federal banking system creates an unsafe and untenable position for these legal entities,” Storey said in the new letter. “The SAFER Banking Act would provide much-needed banking resources to legitimate state businesses.”
The vast majority of states and territories have “exercised their sovereign prerogatives to legalize cannabis and the federal government must respect these valid state policy choices,” he said.
For the full statement: https://t.co/aglivzmjze
— NCSL (@NCSLorg) September 25, 2023
“The SAFER Banking Act is a much-needed solution to reconciling the conflict between a burgeoning and legitimate state cannabis industry and its ability to comply with federal cannabis laws,” the letter says.
“Our current system relies on cash-only cannabis transactions, increasing the real risk that these cannabis businesses become prime targets for theft, burglary, armed robbery and other property crimes that jeopardize the safety of the business owners and the communities in which they operate. The bipartisan SAFER Banking Act will create a safe environment for cannabis businesses and would allow financial institutions to provide banking services to legitimate state authorized cannabis-related businesses.”
NCSL’s position on cannabis policy has evolved over recent years. While this letter focuses on marijuana banking, the conference previously passed a directive calling for cannabis descheduling in 2017. That was then updated in 2018 to simply say that states should be able to set their own marijuana laws, until NCSL’s summit last year where they voted to expand its position to include an explicit call for federal legalization.
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Last week, a coalition of 35 cannabis trade associations, drug policy reform groups and a top national labor union called on Congress to help address the “humanitarian toll” of robberies targeting cash-intensive marijuana businesses by passing the SAFE Banking Act “this year.”
The American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH)—along with trade groups representing marijuana businesses in 16 states plus Washington, D.C.—also sent a letter to Brown and Banking Committee Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) in July, imploring them to pass the cannabis banking bill “without further delay.”
Also, the American Bankers Association (ABA) also renewed its call for the passage of the legislation. And all 50 of its state chapters did the same, as did insurance and union organizations, in recent letters to congressional leadership.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said last week that the SAFER Banking Act will pass “decisively” out of his panel this week, as senators discuss possible tweaks on its path to the floor.
The chairman said he isn’t anticipating “many amendments” when it reaches the floor. Schumer has committed to attaching changes related to state-level cannabis expungements and gun rights for medical cannabis patients—but beyond that, Brown said generally “there will be enough agreement that we will keep the bill together and make minor changes.”
In a statement last week, the lead GOP sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), touted provisions of the legislation that he said would protect firearm and energy companies in Montana “from the Left’s woke agenda.” For what its worth, his office has also said that the senator is open to attaching the expungements provisions Schumer is proposing..
Meanwhile, Schumer also sent out a campaign email on Tuesday that called on supporters to join him in demanding that the federal government legalize marijuana.
So far this session, no marijuana legalization bill has been filed on the Senate side this session, though Schumer did previously champion a comprehensive reform bill that ultimately did not advance during the last Congress.
But a bill to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis was filed by House Democrats last week. However, its prospects are dubious given GOP control of the chamber.