Reports Say That Marijuana Banking Won’t Be Included in The Spending Bill, Lawmakers And Stakeholders Make One Last Effort!

Reports Say That Marijuana Banking Won't Be Included in The Spending Bill

Reports suggest that Marijuana banking measures may be left out of an as-yet unfiled omnibus budget plan, prompting some politicians to fight back, while advocacy groups and industry stakeholders ramp up calls for action in the last days of Congress’s lame-duck session. To be clear, negotiations are still going on and the final appropriations package text has not been revealed. On Tuesday, however, it was announced that the appropriators had settled on a legislative “framework.”

However, a short post from a Punchbowl News reporter stating that Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking “would not be included in the package” has worried advocates. The Republican Senate whip has already stated that he does not anticipate the cannabis plan to be linked to the budget measure, so this comes as no surprise.

Furthermore, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has frequently hinted that he would fight against attempts to promote SAFE Banking through appropriations after he praised its removal from a must-pass military measure last week. On Wednesday, McConnell added to his previous remarks about the spending deal by saying that “poison pills…will need to stay away from the process.” The minority leader acknowledged that “even then, the calendar would still make this a hard sprint.”

If the Senate can approve a truly bipartisan, full-year package without poison pills by the end of next week, I will vote for it. A short-term continuing resolution into the new year is unacceptable. The House is working on a continuing resolution that will finance the government through December 23. Regulatory, the cutoff date is this coming Friday. McConnell has called banking for Marijuana a “poison pill” in the past, although he did not specifically mention the idea in his most recent comments.

Even so, this is not a particularly encouraging position for advocates, who see appropriations as one of the last remaining vehicles for SAFE Banking or a broader SAFE Plus package that could include expungements and other cannabis provisions, barring its movement as a standalone before Congress adjourns for the session. That’s why it’s safe to conclude that gloom is growing as time runs out.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), the bill’s primary sponsor, has made it plain he is not willing to give up the drive and will continue to pursue the bill’s approval until his retirement at the end of the 117th Congress. On Wednesday, a member of Perlmutter’s staff told Marijuana Moment that the congressman “is still working as hard as he can and talking to leadership” about including cannabis banking reform in the omnibus funding measure.

In a meeting of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday, Perlmutter noted that SAFE Banking is one of two “pending things that I’m currently working on.” In the wake of the reform’s exclusion from last week’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), he indicated he was considering appropriations as an alternate vehicle, but that he was now simply determined to include it in “anything.”

Advocates and stakeholders are growing increasingly frustrated and anxious as the lame-duck session continues; some believe that this is the last chance to have marijuana banking legislation passed before the Republicans recapture the majority in the House on January 3.

Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has placed the blame on McConnell, saying in an interview with that the majority leader’s outspoken opposition to cannabis reform has discouraged Republican senators who may otherwise vote for a bill containing SAFE Banking language.

He was alluding to the Republican leadership when he added, “They’re dead set on anything in marijuana.” To paraphrase, “That’s the stumbling block for me.” The most powerful members of their caucus are “obviously against doing anything on marijuana,” he said.

Despite McConnell’s undeniable impact on the subject during the lame duck, many in the industry hold Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at least partially responsible, saying that Schumer should have used the Democratic majority to push the incremental change to the floor. Given his prior assurances that he would introduce broad legalization, they think this is the very least he could do.

1. During the month of September in the year 2020:

Schumer, who at the time was the minority leader in the Senate, promised that “if I am leader, I would do everything I can to place the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act” (his earlier legalization bill) on the floor of the Senate. The probability of it succeeding is high.

2. This Coming October 2020:

It’s likely to pass if I’m the majority leader and bring it to a vote.

3. 2020 December:

If I am elected majority leader, I will introduce it, and I predict it will be approved. It will win support from both Democrats and Republicans.

4. April 2021:

At the time, Schumer was talking about his unfiled CAOA when he made the statement.

Though he, Booker, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) had hoped to end prohibition this Congress by legalizing marijuana with their Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), it was clear they did not have the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate when they introduced the bill in July.

Whether due to pure optimism, deliberate planning, or a combination of the two, those assurances were ultimately unfulfilled. Many advocates are left wondering why he doesn’t at least use his power during this lame-duck session to bring SAFE Banking or SAFE Plus to the floor, where it would presumably enjoy modest bipartisan support, before entering into a divided Congress next year.

Of course, political dynamics change, and the steep 60-vote threshold for Senate passage was likely a key part of the calculus in not following through on that commitment. There are still some who don’t believe that the 118th Congress will be unable to pass even modest reform measures due to the split of power between the House and the Senate.

Rep. Nancy Mace, who supports legalization, hopes the new Republican majority in the House would give Republicans the opportunity to seize the subject from the Democrats (R-SC). The lawmaker tweeted on Wednesday that “SAFE Banking is a fantastic bill and it’s a shame all the disinformation about how its passage was imminent” before deleting the message.

Close as we are to the end of this parliamentary session, it is imperative that we plan beyond SAFE for the upcoming Congress. An aide told Marijuana Moment that the representative wants to elaborate on her thoughts in a Twitter thread on Thursday after the tweet gained attention from advocates and stakeholders before being deleted.

There has been a coordinated effort from a wide variety of groups to persuade lawmakers to get the job done as supporters wait to see what ends up in the omnibus appropriations legislation, which is now likely to be unveiled in the coming days. On Wednesday, the Marijuana Policy Project’s (MPP) call to action on SAFE Banking gained traction, being shared by prominent corporate heavyweights and celebrities.

Also, Boris Jordan, founder of Curaleaf:

Ben Kovler, CEO of Green Thumb Industries:

Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve:

Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell:

Professional wrestler Ric Flair has his own line of cannabis products:

And the Wiz Khalifa-founded cannabis company Khalifa Kush:

The industry has long been in agreement that SAFE Banking must be passed, and quickly, but the coordinated campaign over the past week has made clear how high the stakes are in these final weeks of the lame duck. The National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFICU) and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) have been among the financial groups that have been pressuring lawmakers to act swiftly.

Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, expressed optimism in a Monday interview with Nexstar. Brown affirmed, “It is still possible.” In addition, he said that lawmakers are “this close to a settlement,” with his thumb and index finger separated by about an inch. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced last week that he will “keep pushing” to get the SAFE Banking reform “approved this year” and that “this is not the end of the road” for the bill.

As he put it, “working in cash is an open door to robbery and money laundering,” therefore it’s important that legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they require. This was also emphasized in a recent study that investigated the causes and patterns of criminality against Washington State’s cannabis industry.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), along with a small group of senators this week, met with the Justice Department to obtain reassurance that issues it identified concerning SAFE Banking in a memo earlier this year have been adequately resolved. Toomey’s vote could make or break the final SAFE deal in appropriations.

More than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelic, and drug policy measures have been introduced in state legislatures and Congress this year, and Marijuana Moment is keeping tabs on them all. All of our interactive maps, charts, and hearing calendar are available to our $25/month Patreon backers so they don’t miss a thing.

At the same time, Schumer and incoming Senate President pro tempore Patty Murray (D-WA) discussed passing cannabis banking reform during the lame-duck session last week at a leadership briefing. Murray claimed that even with the smallest possible majority in the Senate, the Democrats have achieved substantial progress on a number of topics.

As she put it, “we are not done yet,” and there are still areas of bipartisan accord that may move before the end of the session, such as “making sure our legal cannabis firms can access credit.” It remains to be seen if SAFE or SAFE Plus will be included in the upcoming appropriations arrangement. Nonetheless, this is far from the only cannabis change that supporters are hoping to see included in the final package that reaches the president’s desk.

Provisions ranging from shielding state marijuana programs from federal interference to lifting the congressional blockade that has prevented Washington, D.C. from implementing a system of regulated cannabis sales for adults can be found in the various appropriations bills considered or advanced this year.

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