Lawmakers on Capitol Hill try once again to push for cannabis banking reform

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Cannabis supporters in Congress continue to fight for federal changes

A press conference held Wednesday by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Ed Perlmutter hoped to increase support for cannabis legislation. It would allow multistate operators to collaborate with the U.S. Financial system, one of the many pushes long-time cannabis supporters on Capitol Hill have been fighting for. Whether their efforts pay off remains to be seen.

Perlmutter is the main sponsor of the SAFE Bank Act, which passed the House. Although the bill is still awaiting action in Congress, it could be included in a larger package of reforms to cannabis. Perlmutter explained the benefits of SAFE Banking and said that it was “obviously a public safety problem.” He added that it is also a tax problem and a “matter of civil justice.”

However, he’s optimistic that change is coming. He said, “We can do it. We will achieve this.” We need more Republican cosponsors. Perlmutter suggested that he might seek “the nuclear option”, a reference to the House Rules Committee holding up legislation such as the National Defense Authorization Act. The House version of this legislation includes cannabis banking reform.

Merkley stated that there was bipartisan support for SAFE Banking legislation as standalone legislation. The Senate’s Democratic Senators are pushing for a larger marijuana reform bill known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, (CAOA). This includes federal legalization and other support measures for businesses owned by people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses.

Senator Cory Booker, a key sponsor for the CAOA, stated that SAFE Banking would need to be approved as a separate bill in the Senate. It would also require measures to assist those disproportionately affected by the prohibition on marijuana. Perlmutter isn’t convinced it’s the best option, though, stating that the CAOA is “very broad piece of legislation,” but it does not have the necessary support in the Senate.