A major cannabis bill, geared toward boosting the United States' competitiveness in the marijuana banking marketplace, reportedly has garnered bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the third-highest-ranking Senate Democrat, is reportedly leading the pitch for the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow cannabis firms to use banking services, as part of a sweeping legislative package that's designed to "bolster the country's supply chains and manufacturing."
Murray, a member of the Senate conference committee heading negotiations for the cannabis-banking bill, says she's "fighting every which way" to include cannabis legislation into the final proposal, which might be a language hybrid of the Senate's U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, and the House's Competes Act (fortifying domestic supply chains and scientific research in the U.S.), which passed in February.
Federal law currently requires marijuana dispensaries to use cash, potentially making these companies more susceptible to robberies.
"This is a cash-only business right now. It's dangerous for the employees," Murray told The Hill. "It's dangerous for the patrons, and it can be fixed."
The House has reportedly passed six versions of the cannabis-banking bill; and now, a number of U.S. senators are touting its virtues in the upper chamber.
"The bottom line is that banking bill's been out there for a long time. It’s ready to go. It needs to pass," Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, told The Hill.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., shares Tester's urgency for bringing this bill to passage.
"We've got nine Republican co-sponsors officially on it, close to 50 Democrats," said Daines. "There are some other Republicans that I'm confident, if we had a vote, would vote for it. So, we've got the votes to pass the SAFE Banking Act as a standalone, if we'd like to."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had previously blocked the SAFE Banking Act, believing it might hurt the prospects of broader marijuana-related bills, since as legalizing marijuana and expunging federal pot convictions.
But now, Schumer appears ready to support the measure.
Conversely, there are lingering worries of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocking the SAFE Banking Act's inclusion on the Senate docket.
But the specter of "bipartisan support" could be enough to sway both Senate leaders. Especially since the lobbyists and banking industries are on board.
"I think there needs to be more concern because right now this is an untenable situation," said Steve Hawkins, president of the U.S. Cannabis Council, regarding the Senate bill. "People should not be in a position where they go to work and are not certain they're going to come home to their families, and that's what we're faced with right now."
Plus, marijuana-banking advocates believe the SAFE Banking Act's passage would help strengthen cannabis reforms.
"My experience has been that every time you get somebody who's not quite comfortable with broader reform, but is potentially swayable on incremental measures, once you get them to vote for those incremental measures, it becomes much easier to get them to support future and much broader legislation," said Morgan Fox, policy director at marijuana advocacy nonprofit NORML.
The American Bankers Association and bankers groups from all 50 states recently urged Senate leaders to include the banking bill in the conference report, noting that it is "urgently needed" legislation that would address the recent wave of robberies and improve transparency and tax collection among cannabis businesses.
"The inability of the state-licensed cannabis industry to access safe and regulated financial services is a pressing concern for so many of our nation's communities and the banks that serve them," the banking groups wrote last week.
According to Forbes, legalized marijuana sales in America brought in $17.8 billion of revenue in 2020.
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