Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that he and his colleagues are “very close” to passing legislation that would authorize financial institutions to provide services to cannabis businesses.
Speaking during a debate in his New York senate race, Schumer signaled that the SAFE Banking Act may finally be close to earning full passage.
“I am working in a bipartisan way with Democrats and Republicans to take the SAFE Banking Act, which allows financial institutions to involve themselves in cannabis companies and lend money to them—but it also does some things for justice, such as expunging a record,” Schumer said during the debate, as quoted by Seeking Alpha.
The SAFE Banking Act was passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in February, marking the sixth time that the body approved the legislation.
The legislation was first introduced all the way back in 2013. If it were to become law, it would provide vital resources to cannabis retailers in states where adult-use marijuana has been made legal.
Those shops have become susceptible to robberies, due to the large amounts of cash on hand.
In March, the Seattle Times reported that there had already been 70 armed robberies in Washington state in the first three months of the year. That was more than double the total in both 2021 and 2020.
“You rob the places where the cash is,” Washington state treasurer Mike Pellicciotti said on a trip earlier this year to Washington, where he lobbied lawmakers to pass the SAFE Banking Act. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”
”You can’t have a $1.4 billion a year transaction taking place in the state of Washington in cash and not have the risk of these type of robberies … It’s time,” Pellicciotti added.
Pellicciotti and other state treasurers have been among the bill’s biggest advocates.
“Colorado weed stores, along with other states with legal cannabis businesses, are headed into their busiest week of the year,” Colorado state treasurer Dave Young tweeted earlier this year ahead of the 4/20 festivities, “yet these businesses must dangerously operate in a cash-based world. Let’s pass the #SAFEBankingAct this #fourtwenty.”
Democratic leaders like Schumer have been determined to pass some form of cannabis reform since the party secured control of Congress and the White House in 2020.
Schumer spoke confidently last year about passing a federal legalization bill––even as President Joe Biden expressed reluctance about fully lifting prohibition.
“We will move forward,” Schumer said at the time. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”
In April, the House passed the the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the federal statute that enshrines prohibition.
Democrats in the Senate said that they would produce their own legalization bill, but the legislation’s release never came.
Now, with the midterm elections slated for next week––and with Democrats in jeopardy of losing control of both the House and the Senate––the hopes for federal legalization are dimming.
That isn’t to say that cannabis reform advocates have come up completely empty with Democrats in charge.
Last month, Biden announced that he is issuing pardons to everyone with federal convictions for marijuana possession. Biden also signaled a desire to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said in his announcement.
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”
As Seeking Alpha noted, the version of the SAFE Banking Act under consideration “includes both banking reform and marijuana conviction expungements.”