A Bipartisan Banking Bill For Marijuana Is In Danger As Congress Tries To Finish Up For The Year!

A Bipartisan Banking Bill For Marijuana Is In Danger As Congress Tries To Finish Up For The Year!

As the lame-duck Congress tries to wrap up its work this week, the fate of a bipartisan plan that would allow marijuana firms to access financial services in areas where the material is legal is uncertain. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act aims to create a safe harbor for banks and credit unions so that legal, respectable marijuana businesses can gain access to financial services. Given that Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, many federally insured financial institutions are reluctant to provide their entire range of services to cannabis firms for fear of legal repercussions.

Therefore, many dispensaries and other companies dealing with marijuana in areas where recreational cannabis use is legal only accept cash and do not allow consumers to use credit or debit cards, and some even have ATMs on the premises. Because of this dynamic, there is a greater possibility of criminal activity targeting businesses and their couriers because thieves are aware of the significant sums of cash those entities and individuals keep on hand.

There have been several reports of armed robberies and burglaries at Marijuana dispensaries in every state that has legalized cannabis for recreational or medical use, including California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. On two separate occasions, the House has debated the SAFE Banking Act on its own and enacted those versions. The House initially approved it as part of a larger bill in September 2019 by a vote of 321 to 103, and then again in April 2021 by a vote of 321 to 101 during the current Congress.

To date, the bill has failed to advance in the Senate every time it has been introduced, regardless of whether or not it was included in a larger must-pass piece of legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the latest attempt to attach the SAFE Banking Act to the yearly National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) earlier this month (R-Ky.)

opposition to its inclusion was based on the argument that it was an attempt to “cram in tangential topics with no relationship whatsoever to defense.” This bill had a similar ending a year ago when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stopped it from becoming law as part of the NDAA because he wanted a broader marijuana legalization proposal.

Since the NDAA for this year has already been approved by both chambers without the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment, there is no longer a good opportunity to include it in that bill. However, lawmakers could try again by including it in the omnibus spending bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Many lawmakers’ pet projects and other priorities find their way into the annual omnibus spending bill, which includes about $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending for the federal government and is often referred to as a “Christmas tree” bill when considered near the end of the year because of all the “presents” it contains.

It’s currently unknown if the SAFE Banking Act will be incorporated into the omnibus bill by legislators. The current Congress will finish on January 3rd, so if the SAFE Banking Act isn’t passed before then, its supporters would have to start over in the next year. Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, told Punchbowl News that he plans to “take it up and get it through” both chambers in 2023, adding that “there’s an appetite in the Republican House.”

A Bipartisan Banking Bill For Marijuana Is In Danger As Congress Tries To Finish Up For The Year!

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, when 2022 comes to an end, recreational marijuana has been legalized in 21 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. Voters in both Missouri (where legalization was approved by a 6-point majority) and Maryland (where support for a ballot item was about 2:1) are the most recent states to take such action.

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