The sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would resolve banking issues in the marijuana industry is preparing to amend the legislation as a planned House floor vote approaches in order to bolster its appeal among GOP members.
The bill, which currently has 206 cosponsors, including 26 Republicans, was revised to clarify that banking protections apply to hemp and CBD businesses and also shields certain businesses such as firearms dealers from being targeted by financial regulators, as was the case under a 2013 Justice Department initiative that flagged various industries as higher risk for fraud and money laundering.
Other changes include an expansion of the definition of ancillary businesses working with marijuana firms that would be protected, extending and clarifying protections to federal home loan banks and insurers and language specifying that financial regulators wouldn’t be uniquely restricted in their supervisory roles over the cannabis industry.
The text of the updated bill as prepared for floor action next week was obtained by Marijuana Moment.
The provisions are meant to entice conservative members who might have been wary of approving a bill that is narrowly tailored to help the cannabis industry.
A new section of the bill notes that hemp was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill yet “some hemp businesses (including producers, manufacturers, and retailers) continue to have difficulty gaining access to banking products and services” and that “businesses involved in the sale of hemp-derived cannabidiol (‘CBD’) products are particularly affected, due to confusion about their legal status.”
In order to address that problem, the legislation stipulates that financial regulators must issue guidance “confirming the legality of hemp, hemp-derived CBD products, and other hemp-derived cannabinoid products, and the legality of engaging in financial services with businesses selling hemp, hemp-derived CBD products, and other hemp-derived cannabinoid products, after the enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.”
Regulators must also “provide recommended best practices for financial institutions to follow when providing financial services and merchant processing services to businesses involved in the sale of hemp, hemp-derived CBD products, and other hemp-derived cannabinoid products.”
The section that seems to aim to prevent actions such as the controversial Justice Department initiative known as “Operation Choke Point” targeting the gun industry states that federal banking agencies “may not formally or informally request or order a depository institution to terminate a specific customer account or group of customer accounts or to otherwise restrict or discourage a depository institution from entering into or maintaining a banking relationship with a specific customer or group of customers” unless there’s a valid reason.
Getting more Republicans on board will be critical as House leaders plan to advance the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act through an expedited process known as suspension of the rules, which requires two-thirds of the chamber of pass and does not provide opportunities for floor amendments.
The expanded version of the legislation will also likely fare better in the Republican-controlled Senate if it clears the House. Senate Banking Chair Mike Crapo (R-ID) said earlier this month that his panel will also hold a vote on the banking issue, ideally by the year’s end, but he didn’t commit specifically to a vote on the SAFE Banking Act as currently drafted.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who’s made clear that he’s no fan of marijuana, could presumably feel better about brining the bill to his chamber’s floor given his long-standing advocacy for hemp and CBD issues.
It’s not just the GOP that the bill’s supporters have to consider, however. While Democrats have capitalized on popular marijuana reform issues, the banking legislation has recently been a topic of contention among progressive advocates and lawmakers.
After House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) informed the Democratic Caucus of his intent to bring the bill to a floor vote by the end of the month, some groups such as the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance signed a letter urging leadership to delay a vote until comprehensive legalization legislation that addresses social equity is passed.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is a prominent example of a lawmaker who indicated she might not vote in favor of banking legislation without Congress first tackling the racial injustices of cannabis prohibition, with a staffer telling Marijuana Moment on Thursday that the congresswoman “feels strongly that addressing racial justice should be the first priority.”
Marijuana Moment spoke to a number of lawmakers about the internal Democratic caucus debate on Wednesday. House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA), whose panel passed the bill in March, said that she understands the groups’ perspective but that the issue is that Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has yet to hold a vote on his more wide-ranging legalization bill.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, made a similar point and stressed the need for action on any cannabis reform legislation regardless of its scale. Revising his bill signals that he’s not letting up on that goal, and it also bodes well for the prospects of getting a vote next week.
A vote has yet to be scheduled but a key signal will be whether the SAFE Banking Act is listed on a weekly floor schedule that Hoyer’s office will release on Friday.
Marijuana Moment’s Patreon supporters can read the full text of the revised banking bill below:
Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording
President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.
Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote
Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.
The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.
“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”
The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.
“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.
The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.
The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.
The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.
Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.
But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.