A majority of Americans—55 percent—say they want Congress to pass legislation allowing cannabis businesses to have access to banking services in states where marijuana is legal, according to a new survey commissioned by the American Bankers Association (ABA).
Conducted last month by Morning Consult, the poll asked 2,211 U.S. adults their opinions on a range of banking matters, most of which centered on consumer issues such as overdraft fees and customer service. But one question plumbed public opinion on banking reform around state-legal marijuana, which remains a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other lawmakers.
The question asks, “Do you support or oppose Congress passing legislation that allows cannabis businesses to have access to banking services and financial products (like checking accounts and business loans) in states where cannabis is legal?”
Of respondents, 28 percent said they “strongly support” such a move, while 27 percent said they “somewhat support” the change. Another 23 percent either strongly (11 percent) or somewhat (12 percent) oppose the change, while 23 percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
“In the wake of the recent Senate Banking Committee vote to advance the SAFER Banking Act,” Rob Nichols, ABA’s president and CEO, said in a press release, “this new data indicates that Americans believe Congress should end the ongoing conflict between state and federal law on cannabis banking issues by passing this urgently needed, bipartisan legislation that will enhance public safety.”
The results indicate a slight decline in support from when an ABA poll last year asked the same question. The 2022 survey found 66 percent of people either strongly (37 percent) or somewhat (29 percent) supported marijuana banking reform, while 16 percent either strongly (8 percent) or somewhat (8 percent) opposed it. Nineteen percent of respondents last year said they didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion.
An ABA poll earlier in 2022 found that 68 percent of respondents felt Capitol Hill should act.
A separate poll of U.S. voters by Independent Community Bankers of America last year found 65 percent support for cannabis banking reform, with majorities of Democrats (73 percent) Republicans (55 percent) and independents (67 percent) in favor of the change.
But despite sustained majority support among the public for the change, just 13 percent of congressional staffers believe federal lawmakers will pass a marijuana banking bill this session. In a survey that asked staffers to rank the likelihood of 11 different issues advancing, “banking for the marijuana industry” came in third from the bottom.
Staff for Democratic offices were slightly more optimistic, at 18 percent, compared to just 9 percent of staff for GOP politicians.
In Congress, meanwhile, the lead GOP sponsor in the Senate of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, which would allow federally regulated banks to service the cannabis industry, said last week that a planned floor vote is on pause until he can ensure the legislation will pass the Republican-controlled House. That’s according to a cannabis financing executive who spoke with the senator.
That represents a notable shift in rhetoric compared to Schumer, who has said repeatedly since the bill cleared the Senate Banking Committee last month that he intends to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote “as quickly as possible,”
While earlier versions of the cannabis banking bill have advanced through the House several times under Democratic majorities, its chances of advancing this session came into question after Republicans took control of the chamber. Significantly contributing to the current complications is the fact that the House is without a speaker after a historic vote this month to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the position.
McCarthy was viewed as a potential ally on the incremental marijuana reform, as he previously voted in favor of the legislation even while he has not championed broader cannabis issues. Now, advocates and stakeholders are watching closely to see who eventually replaces him once the GOP conference reaches some kind of agreement after weeks marked by internal splintering.
The bill’s Senate committee consideration had already been delayed over the summer amid partisan disagreement over a section of the legislation favored by Republicans that they said would prevent broader ideological discrimination against any industry such as the firearms trade by federal financial regulators.
Schumer has already talked about plans to amend it such that it incorporates measures on expunging prior cannabis records and protecting gun rights for marijuana consumers. Others, like Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), have floated additional equity-centered amendments, and the Banking Committee’s refusal to adopt certain of his proposals led him to be the sole Democratic member to vote against the cannabis bill last month.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), meanwhile, sent a letter to Schumer last month 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 month 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 claimed 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.”
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