SAFE Banking Act’s Odds May Have Just Increased

When it rains, it pours. And sometimes that’s a good thing.

On the heels of the “historic” news last week that the Biden administration is poised to reschedule marijuana, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown told reporters that he believes the SAFE Banking Act may also be ready for prime time, sending another shockwave through the cannabis industry.

First, Brown – who chairs the powerful Senate Banking Committee – told Punchbowl News that SAFE could get a committee hearing “in the next six weeks.” Then he indicated to Politico that there is an “agreement imminent” on SAFE.

“We know that some members of the committee are going to vote no regardless, but we think there’ll be something good that gets a good majority,” Brown told Politico about the SAFE Banking Act.

If that’s accurate, 2023 is shaping up to be quite a year for cannabis reform. But MarketWatch reported that SAFE ultimately might stall in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives even if it does get the thumbs up in the Senate. House Republican leadership is “either agnostic or opposed” to SAFE, MarketWatch reported, giving the bill a slim chance of success until “after next year’s election.”

Still, some industry insiders were ebullient.

Tim Barash

“Congress is basically trying to follow up on HHS’s historic rescheduling announcement,” said Tim Barash, CEO of cannabis software firm Dutchie. He said the political winds are finally realizing that polling has turned solidly in favor of cannabis reform.

“The government is catching up to where Americans already are,” Barash added.

He noted that establishment politicians have realized that cannabis is actually now a winning issue with voters, essentially a 180-degree turn from where many of those same politicians were a few decades ago.

“The polls don’t just show that people want (cannabis reform),” Barash pointed out. “Voters are starting to say that it would change their vote for a candidate, which is really powerful.”

Just last month, CNN reported that one of the fastest-growing cannabis user cohorts is the elderly.

“A hundred percent of them vote, and they are using (marijuana) for a ton of medicinal reasons,” Barash pointed out. “It is dramatically more mainstream than it was just a few years ago. … It is clearly part of the political calculus.”

Barash also said that from Dutchie’s end – the company helps facilitate cannabis sales in more than 6,000 dispensaries nationwide – cannabis sales transactions are up, which should be an encouraging sign for the industry.

“We’re continuing to see price compression, for sure … but we’re seeing a lot more transactions,” Barash said of the macro-level.

Barash emphasized that he didn’t have firm numbers yet to share, but commented that the industry as a whole is still in a growth phase.

“The worst year of growth for cannabis is basically the best year of growth for the rest of the global economy,” Barash said. “I’d like to believe we’re seeing some short-term pain for long-term gain.”

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