Members of the cannabis industry are intensifying their push to get a banking reform bill passed ahead of the November midterm elections.
Industry members are fearful that a potential GOP takeover in Congress would present a major hurdle in getting cannabis banking reform approved and signed by President Biden after the midterm elections. Recently, over 20 cannabis business leaders collectively lobbied federal lawmakers to pass the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would allow banks to work with cannabis companies. The business leaders believe the Senate’s current makeup presents a greater chance of getting the Safe Banking Act approved. After the November midterms, Democrats could lose their majority in the House, making the chances of such a bill reaching the Senate less likely.
“There is certainly momentum building around trying to get something done this year in the Senate. On both the Republican and Democratic side we’re seeing consensus for SAFE Banking as being the piece of legislation that could pass,” Curaleaf CEO Joe Bayern said in an interview according to The Hill.
“We’re trying to be practical about how we get something passed this year,” Bayern continued. “We think the industry needs something to happen this year.”
Jared Maloof, CEO of Standard Wellness in Ohio, fears that access to banking for the cannabis industry could face an indefinite delay if the SAFE Banking Act is not passed this year.
“We want comprehensive reform, but we also recognize that with the potential for the House and Senate to change hands, we have an opportunity now to pass impactful legislation, and if we fail to do that, it could be years until we get something done,” Maloof said.
The Safe Banking Act was first introduced by Rep. Ed Pearlmutter (D-CO) in 2019. The bill has been passed by the House six times, most recently in February 2022 as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act, but it has stalled in the Senate. As a standalone bill, the Safe Banking Act passed by a vote of 321-101 in April of 2021. Democratic leadership in the Senate has not always fully backed the bill. They’ve expressed concern that passage of the Safe Banking Act could lead to some in Congress viewing cannabis reform as a completed task.
Last month, on Nathan Edleman’s “Psychoactive” podcast, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Schumer articulated this concern.
“If we let this bill out, it will make it much harder and take longer to pass comprehensive reform,” Schumer said on the podcast.
Schumer has introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act which targets even larger reforms. If passed, his bill would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, expunge nonviolent federal cannabis convictions, and divert taxes raised from cannabis sales in areas most impacted by the War on Drugs.
Despite the immediate political challenges, Maloof believes the progress already made by cannabis reformists is a reason for optimism.
“When you look at cannabis over the last 20 years, it started in California, then went to Colorado, and now it’s legal in 37 states medically and 18 states recreationally,” Maloof said. “That’s all incremental progress. Incremental progress is what got us here, and I’d like to think it’s what will take us over the finish line.”