The Senate Banking Committee is meeting on Wednesday for a much-anticipated vote on a bipartisan marijuana banking bill that will decide if it advances to the floor.
Members will vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), one week after it was filed with revisions that were meant to bolster its bipartisan buy-in.
The committee is expected to adopt several technical, clean-up changes that are considered to be non-controversial. But several senators are also reportedly planning to file additional amendments on issues such as cannabis industry access to stock exchanges, banking regulations aimed at preventing discriminatory enforcement, broad justice-focused marijuana reform and more.
Watch the Banking Committee markup of the SAFER Banking Act in the video below:
The road to Wednesday’s vote has been bumpy. While the House has passed earlier versions of the legislation several times, this marks the first time the Senate has taken the lead—and bipartisan negotiations have proved trying.
Leadership aimed to move the bill through committee in July, but disagreements over provisions related to broad banking regulations shot that timeline down. Then, over the August recess, lawmakers drafted a revised version, with a slightly updated title and new language that earned some praise from both sides of the aisle.
But the amended SAFER Banking Act that was finally released last week is likely not in its final form. Beside efforts to further revise it during Wednesday’s markup, there are additionally plans to amend it on the floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to use that opportunity to incorporate legislation on incentivizing state-level cannabis expungements, as well as protecting gun rights for marijuana consumers.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) predicted last week that the SAFER Banking Act will pass “decisively” out of his panel. In light of reporting on heightened tensions over certain provisions, that remains to be seen.
In a statement last week, Daines, the lead GOP sponsor, 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.
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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.
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