Senators are reportedly planning to propose a variety of amendments to a bipartisan marijuana banking bill at Wednesday’s Senate Banking Committee markup, several sources familiar with the discussions say.
While the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act was formally introduced last week following weeks of bipartisan negotiations, there is still evidently disagreement among members over issues such as cannabis industry access to stock exchanges, banking regulations aimed at preventing discriminatory enforcement, broad justice-focused marijuana reform and more.
It’s not clear which amendments may ultimately be filed, but there’s also talk among certain Democratic members about moving to significantly expand the bill’s social equity provisions, which would likely come up against strong resistance from GOP lawmakers as supporters work to bring the legislation to the floor and over to the Republican-controlled House.
“There are plenty of Democrats who aren’t satisfied with banking alone. They want more,” Don Murphy, director of government relations for the Marijuana Leadership Campaign and a former Republican Maryland lawmaker, told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday.
“It’s likely they will offer amendments and then withdraw them. They can say, ‘This is what I like but I know the votes aren’t there. This isn’t the vehicle or this isn’t the time,’” he said. “They’ll be able to go back to their base constituency and show that they advocated for more. This is an opportunity for people to make a statement. I expect a lot of that.”
It’s expected that Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) will be filing more than one amendment dealing with broad social equity issues, as well as more prescriptive changes dealing with financial services that support those goals. His office did not confirm details about the prospective amendments with Marijuana Moment by the time of publication.
On the Republican side, there are plans to pursue an amendment to bolster provisions of Section 10, which generally concerns restricting banking regulators from using discretionary action to discriminate against any industry, including the firearms trade and energy sector that conservatives say are unfairly targeted due to ideological biases.
A source familiar with the planning said an amendment will be introduced to strike certain language that still provides banking supervisors with enforcement discretion. The text of these proposals has not been released yet, however.
In a X Spaces interview with Politico on Tuesday, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) signaled that he was looking to amend the bill along those lines, though he said that a manager’s amendment with various technical changes will be introduced and may inform what additional revisions members pursue.
“There’s a little bit of language cleanup that I want, particularly in Section 10,” he said. “I just want to make sure that we don’t super empower the bureaucracy too much because that’s the last thing I ever want to do with any piece of legislation.”
He added that he’s “confident” the language he disagrees with will be removed and that his goal is to be a “yes” vote.
Meanwhile, in a press release on Tuesday, Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM) said that amendment will be filed to expand “the types of institutions that could provide financial support to cannabis operators, putting it on the same playing field as the hemp industry.”
“Ultimately, this amendment will lower barriers to entry and make the legal cannabis market more equitable,” the group said.
The way it’s described seems to speak to industry stakeholders’ requests to revise the SAFER Banking Act in a way that would allow them to access capital markets. However, the group did not provide the text of the measure, nor did it identify the sponsor.
All told, it appears clear that the revised bill introduced this month is not in its final form, and members are still eager to leverage the committee process to secure additional changes that run the gamut.
If it reaches the floor, those dynamics are expected to come into force again. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), for example, has committed to filing amendments to promote state-level cannabis expungements and marijuana consumers’ gun rights.
—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.—
For what it’s worth, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said last week that the SAFER Banking Act will pass “decisively” out of his panel this week, as senators discuss possible tweaks on its path to the floor.
In a statement last week, the lead GOP sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), touted provisions of the legislation that he said would protect firearm and energy companies in Montana “from the Left’s woke agenda.” His office has also said that the senator is open to attaching the expungements provisions Schumer is proposing.
Meanwhile, a group that represents state lawmakers across the U.S. urged Senate leaders this week to pass the SAFER Banking Act to provide a “much-needed solution” to the “unsafe and untenable” challenges that the cannabis industry faces under prohibition.
Last week, 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.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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