Schumer Commits To Bring Newly Revised Marijuana Banking Bill To The Floor With Cannabis Expungements And Gun Rights Amendments

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reaffirmed his commitment to expeditiously advancing a revised marijuana banking bill—and he says he will also push to attach legislation on cannabis expungements and gun rights for medical marijuana patients.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Senate Banking Committee says that he’s expecting a “strong majority” of his panel to vote in favor of the amended Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act at a markup scheduled for next week.

Shortly after the SAFER Banking Act was formally filed on Wednesday, Schumer released a statement shared exclusively in advance with Marijuana Moment that touted the bipartisan agreement and previewed plans to further expand the bill.

“For too long, the federal government has continued to punish marijuana users and business owners—even when doing so is actively harmful to our country,” he said. “This ‘war on drugs’ has turned into a war on people and communities—specifically people and communities of color—and a war on business.”

“This agreement allows cannabis businesses that have traditionally operated in cash to finally have the opportunity to accept credit and debit cards, allowing them to grow their businesses, pay their employees, protect their customers and ensure public safety,” he said.

The majority leader added that he intends to bring the SAFER Banking Act to the floor “with all due speed,” and he said he’s “committed to including” the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act and Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act in the final legislation.

The HOPE Act is designed to incentivize states and local governments to expunge cannabis records in their jurisdictions. Schumer has previously pledged to amend the banking bill with the criminal justice reform, calling it a “critical” addition. The GOP sponsor of the SAFER Banking Act, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), said he’s amenable to the addition, even as he’s cautioned against significantly expanded the underlying bill.

The GRAM Act, meanwhile, would allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms that they’re currently prohibited from under a statute that’s been challenged in a number of federal courts over the past year.

“I’ve long advocated for expungement of records for cannabis offenses, and with SAFER Banking moving through the committee in such a strong, bipartisan way, I believe now is the time to get it done,” Schumer said. “I look forward to seeing the bill pass out of committee, so we can vote on it on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), meanwhile, also released a statement on Wednesday about the SAFER Banking Act and his interest in attaching the bipartisan expungements legislation. He’s listed as a cosponsor of the revised banking bill—which is notable given that he previously vowed to “lay myself down” to block the incremental reform in 2021 unless Congress first moved to comprehensively legalize marijuana and address the harms of cannabis criminalization.

“With the assurance of Majority Leader Schumer that the HOPE Act, which will support states with grants so they can seek to expunge cannabis records, will be incorporated into this legislation on the Senate floor, I’m cosponsoring the SAFER Banking Act to begin the process of reforming our broken federal cannabis laws,” Booker said.

“This bill will take cannabis banking out of the shadows and give access to the banking system to thousands of small businesses. With the addition of HOPE, it will take a needed step toward restorative justice,” the senator added.

“For too long, our laws involving marijuana have undermined the ability for small businesses and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to succeed on a more level playing field with the wealthy and highly capitalized corporations. And for too long, the prohibition on marijuana has disproportionately targeted low-income, minority, and disadvantaged communities. Finally, we have a bill that is moving us in the right direction and making meaningful strides toward justice.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, released his own statement on Wednesday touting “momentum on our side to finally get a bill signed into law that ends the cannabis cash economy and ensures all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they need to operate with certainty.”

“I am grateful to Majority Leader Schumer for reiterating his personal commitment to ensuring that these two provisions are added on the floor,” the senator said. “As we adjust cannabis policy to reflect the reality that the majority of the country lives in, it is imperative that we also undo the harms perpetuated by the War of Drugs and criminalization of cannabis on communities of color.”

“We can’t move quickly enough to get the bipartisan SAFER Banking Act signed into law, with these important provisions,” Merkley said.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Politico on Wednesday that he anticipates “most members” of his panel will vote to advance the cannabis banking bill next week now that it’s been revised following a “long, arduous process” of bipartisan negotiations.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a Banking Committee member who is cosponsoring the SAFER Banking Act, said in a statement on Wednesday that he’s “glad we finally reached a compromise to solve the public safety threat faced by cannabis businesses operating exclusively in cash and the communities in which they operate.”

“For far too long, the status quo has made these businesses easy targets for criminals—threatening public safety and making it harder for states to regulate,” he said. “This deal will empower small business owners by granting them the ability to access the banking system, and will strengthen communities in New Jersey and across the nation.”

Not everyone is on board, though. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), a member of the committee, told Politico the revisions made to the bill “failed to address my concerns,” so he will be proactively “opposing it.”

The newly released bill reveals the types of compromises senators made over recent weeks. Most of the new provisions are described under Section 10—a component of the reform that Republicans have strongly favored and certain Democrats opposed over concerns it could undermine broader banking regulations.

Here are some of the key changes from the previous Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act: 

In Section 7, the SAFER Banking Act omits earlier language preventing federal regulators from taking action that “discourages” financial institutions from working with state-legal marijuana businesses.
However, Section 10 of the bill now spells out how regulators must broadly have a “valid” reason for requesting or requiring the termination of bank accounts for any business.
It was revised to give the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) one year, rather than 180 days, to develop guidance for financial institutions serving state-licensed marijuana businesses.
The original bill said that income derived from state-legal cannabis business activity couldn’t be used to deny “federally backed mortgages.” That’s been revised to say that standard applies to a “covered” mortgage. A new example of such a covered mortgage is one that’s “acquired or purchased by a Federal Home Loan Bank or pledged as collateral for an advance from a Federal Home Loan Bank.”
Section 10 has been expanded, for example to include a “sense of Congress” language stipulating that the personal and political beliefs of financial regulators should not influence their decisionmaking.
The legislation would newly require federal banking regulators to work with state banking supervisors and the secretaries of commerce and treasury and, within two years of enactment, form rules or guidance to increase access to deposit accounts for businesses and customers and to enable banks and credit unions to more effectively maintain customer relationships—especially for those in rural, low-and moderate-income areas, Tribal communities and unbanked businesses and consumers.
There’s a new requirement for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to conduct a biennial survey and report to identify barriers to accessing deposit accounts for small-and medium-sized businesses.
Further, the bill has been revised to include explicit mention of tribal communities in Section 11, which requires federal regulators to submit a report to Congress on access to banking for historically underbanked communities. Tribes are now listed beside minorities, veterans, women and small state-sanctioned cannabis businesses as subjects of that report—which is not the case in the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act as introduced.
While required reports on data concerning small and minority-, veteran- and women-owned businesses are still in the bill, the phrase “diversity and inclusion” has been removed from the relevant section titles.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 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.—

All told, it appears that the proposed revisions could satisfy both sides of the aisle, with Section 10 kept “intact,” as Banking Committee member Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said this week, but also with new provisions to promote equity in the financial system.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who also serves on the Banking Committee and previously raised concerns about Section 10, has also said that senators “talked extensively” about the language, “and we’ve made some progress.”

“I think we’ve resolved most of the issues we had—and I hope we have so we can get it out of the committee with a strong vote,” he said.

Meanwhile, Schumer and others have also discussed plans to amend the legislation on the floor to adopt “critical” criminal justice provisions such as expungements for prior marijuana convictions, calling broader effort to repair the harms of the drug war a “moral responsibility” for Congress.

A spokesperson Daines told Marijuana Moment in July that he is “open” to including the additional reform provision, even as he’s cautioned Democrats against significantly expanding the bill’s scope in a way that could jeopardize GOP support. As a standalone in its current form, insiders say the measure has enough Republican buy-in to reach the 60-vote threshold needed for passage in the Senate.

On Tuesday, a coalition of 35 cannabis trade associations, drug policy reform groups and a top national labor union called on Congress to help address the “humanitarian toll” of robberies targeting cash-intensive marijuana businesses by passing the SAFE Banking Act “this year.”

The American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH)—along with trade groups representing marijuana businesses in 16 states plus Washington, D.C.—also sent a letter to Brown and Banking Committee Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) in July, imploring them to pass the cannabis banking bill “without further delay.”

Also, the American Bankers Association (ABA) also renewed its call for the passage of the legislation. And all 50 of its state chapters did the same, as did insurance and union organizations, in recent letters to congressional leadership.

July also marked the 10-year anniversary since the introduction of the first version of what is now known as the SAFE Banking Act.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) separately said in a recent letter to President Joe Biden that he should throw his support behind the congressional push for marijuana banking reform as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) begins its review of cannabis scheduling after receiving a rescheduling recommendation from the top federal health agency.

Rhode Island Marijuana Activists Want Regulators To Close Loopholes, Protect Workers And Prioritize Social Equity

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

 Read More Feedzy 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *