Top Senate Democrat And House Republican Reaffirm Support For Marijuana Banking Bill As Congress Finalizes Government Funding

Top Senate Democrat And House Republican Reaffirm Support For Marijuana Banking Bill As Congress Finalizes Government Funding

The chair of the Senate Banking Committee says that passing marijuana banking legislation remains a priority for the chamber, despite political complications in the House. And a top Republican congressman is also reaffirming his support for the bipartisan cannabis measure, despite not being “a marijuana guy.”

As Congress prepares to pass a final package of spending bills for the 2024 Fiscal Year ahead of a Friday deadline, there’s renewed attention to other legislative priorities, including the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), whose panel approved the marijuana banking bill last September, was asked by AskAPol recently whether he anticipates the measure will ultimately pass on the floor this year, to which he responded: “Hope so.”

“We’ve got a House that’s still not moving on stuff that matters to Republicans,” he said, referencing intra-party divisions in the GOP-controlled chamber. “The truth is that’s really pushed us back on what we can do in the Senate with floor time.”

But Brown said the Senate still wants to advance the SAFER Banking Act, as well as legislation on railroad safety and tax reform, adding that “all that’s sort of connected.”

The comments echo what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said earlier this month, as he recommitted to prioritizing the cannabis measure after appropriations were covered. Schumer told Marijuana Moment that the bill remains a “very high priority” for the Senate, and members are having “very productive” bicameral talks to reach a final agreement.

Meanwhile, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) said during an American Bankers Association (ABA) summit on Tuesday that he reaffirmed 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.

“You would think [because] I’m in Congress that I’m stoned all the time. It just isn’t my deal,” he joked.

Emmer added that while he does have “a lot of concerns about this mind-altering substance,” he feels that “the message is it’s not how you feel about this, it is whether or not it is a legitimate legal business.”

“Like it or not, if your state has enacted laws creating this as a legal entity that is legitimate, our bankers should be allowed to bank,” he said. “That’s my belief, and I think that’s the approach. It’s not whether you are a marijuana lover or hater, it’s more: This is a legitimate business that has been approved by the representative government of that state.”

Watch Emmer’s marijuana banking comments, around 1:47:30 into the video below:

Earlier versions of the legislation have cleared the House in some form seven times in recent sessions, with bipartisan support. But Senate leadership has delayed floor consideration since the bill’s committee approval, in part due to uncertainties around how the GOP-controlled House would approach it.

Another key factor that’s kept the bill from the floor is disagreement over mostly non-cannabis provisions dealing with broader banking regulations, primarily those contained in Section 10 of the legislation.

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 this month that the legislation is “gaining momentum” as lawmakers work to bring it to the floor and pass it “this year.”

The office of the Republican SAFER Banking prime sponsor, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), separately told Marijuana Moment that “conversations have been productive and Senator Daines is working to get the bill across the finish line.”

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.—

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, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) signed on as a cosponsor of the SAFER Banking Act this month, becoming the 36th member of the chamber to add their name to the legislation in addition to its lead sponsor.

If the SAFER Banking Act does make it to the Senate floor this year, it’s expected to be amended. For example, Schumer has discussed the “moral responsibility” of further amending it to add provisions on state-legal cannabis expungements and gun rights for cannabis consumers.

Separately, the original sponsor of the first cannabis banking reform bill, former Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), spoke with Marijuana Moment last month about his work with a national marijuana group lobbying on the legislation. He said he remains “hopeful” that there’s enough time and momentum to enact the measure this year.

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