Just 13 Percent Of Top Capitol Hill Staffers Think Marijuana Banking Bill Will Pass During Current Congressional Session, Survey Finds

Just about one in 10 congressional staffers thinks a marijuana banking bill will be enacted this year, an outlook that deviates from supporters who’ve been encouraged by its bipartisan momentum.

The Canvass Capitol Hill survey, which was conducted from September 5-22 and first reported by Punchbowl News, asked top legislative staff about 11 different issues that are pending this Congress and their perceptions about the likelihood they will advance this year.

“Banking for the marijuana industry” came in third from the bottom of that list, with just 13 percent saying it was likely to pass in the first half of the current two-year Congress. Staff for Democratic offices were slightly more optimistic at 18 percent, compared to just 9 percent of GOP staff who said they think the bill will be enacted by the end of 2023.

The respondents were significantly more bullish on issues such as federal aviation reauthorization, increasing Pentagon funding, increasing support for Ukraine, reauthorizing the Farm Bill.

(While the graphic Punchbowl used to promote the survey states that it portrays the views of “members of Congress,” the questionnaire was actually posed to “senior Hill staffers,” according to the news outlet’s writeup.)

It’s likely that this polling snapshot more accurately reflects the timeline realities at play, rather than overall support for the legislation. More than 13 percent of members are cosponsoring the bill in either chamber.

The bills at the top of the list are generally regarded as must-pass, and floor time in both chambers is limited and competitive. If there are only so many issues that Congress can take up in the rest of the year, especially now that the House GOP is in the midst of a leadership changeup, then the prospects of such quick passage for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act are doubtful.

However, that leadership transition, which saw the historic ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the speaker’s office this week, has raised some questions about the fate of the cannabis banking bill. Unlike McCarthy, the current announced contenders have voted against protecting banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses.

The SAFER Banking Act did clear a key initial hurdle last month, advancing through the Senate Banking Committee with bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has committed to expeditiously bringing it to the floor, after which point it would be transmitted to the House.

Schumer has also detailed plans to amend the SAFER Banking Act by attaching legislation to incentivize state and local cannabis expungements and gun rights for marijuana consumers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), meanwhile, sent a letter to Schumer last week to express concern about the Senate’s “ongoing prioritizing of legislation relaxing marijuana laws” over a separate measure the GOP senator favors to permanently prohibit fentanyl analogues.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is also stirring the pot over the cannabis banking bill, with an inflated interpretation of Schumer’s floor remarks last week about his plans to amend the legislation with “criminal justice provisions.”

While Schumer has so far only discussed amending the bill to include the expungements and gun rights provisions, Cotton said the majority leader wants to add provisions “letting drug traffickers out of prison.”

Additionally, Sens. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Budd (R-NC) and James Lankford (R-OK) recently sent a letter to Senate leadership that argued the SAFER Banking Act would result in the cannabis industry producing higher potency products that would be harmful to youth and compromise “the integrity of the United States banking system.”

On the other side of the aisle, Banking Committee member Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) has pushed for provisions meant to bolster the bill’s social equity provisions. After his proposed amendments were rejected during the committee markup, he was the sole Democrat on the panel to vote against the overall legislation.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan coalition of 22 state attorneys general is also calling on Congress to pass the cannabis banking reform.

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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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