Schumer Touts ‘Very Productive’ Marijuana Banking Talks With House, And Top Sponsor Says Bill Has ‘Momentum’ To Pass ‘This Year’

A bipartisan marijuana banking bill remains a “very high priority” for the Senate, and members are having “very productive” bicameral talks to reach a final agreement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tells Marijuana Moment.

The Democratic Senate sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), also tells Marijuana Moment that the legislation is “gaining momentum” as lawmakers work to bring it to the Senate floor and pass it “this year.”

Schumer, who said during a Democratic leadership briefing on Wednesday that the SAFER Banking Act is among the legislative items he’s aiming to enact before this year’s elections, reiterated his commitment to getting the job done.

“SAFER Banking is a very high priority and we’re having very productive conversations with the House on an agreement that can pass both chambers,” he told Marijuana Moment after the briefing on Wednesday.

The bill, which cleared the Senate Banking Committee in September, has been on pause for the past several months as Congress works to pass appropriations measures to fund various government agencies and tackle other priorities. The House approved a package of spending bills on Wednesday, with several cannabis provisions attached such as protecting state medical marijuana programs from federal intervention, and the Senate is expected to vote imminently ahead of a Friday midnight deadline for the current continuing resolution.

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

But more recently, there are reports that negotiations on those outstanding items are coming to a close. And Merkley, the bill’s chief sponsor, echoed that sentiment in a statement to Marijuana Moment.

“Passing the SAFER Banking Act remains a top priority for me. Small businesses need access to financial services that give them certainty, and to end the cannabis cash economy that is dangerous for our communities,” he said. “Our bipartisan bill is gaining momentum and I continue to engage with leadership and other senators to get this done this year.”

On the House side, Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) is the prime GOP sponsor of the cannabis banking bill, and his office tells Marijuana Moment that the Senate majority leader’s new comments on productive bicameral talks “pretty much sums it up.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founding member of the Cannabis Caucus, also told Marijuana Moment that it’s “not too late for this Congress to end the insane and unjust denial of banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses.”

“This legislation should be a layup. And we are getting close, which is a great signal to the American people,” he said.

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 last week, 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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