Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.
A bipartisan marijuana banking bill has taken three new steps closer to a full floor vote in the House of Representatives after it was formally reported by one committee, another key panel discharged the legislation, and it was placed on the body’s Union Calendar.
The proposal, which would protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators, was approved earlier this year by the House Financial Services Committee. On Wednesday, the committee issued a formal report on legislation, including an updated cosponsor list and incorporating amendments approved during its consideration in March.
The bill was set to next be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee, but that panel opted to advance it without a report on Wednesday, in effect waiving jurisdiction so the legislation can advance to the floor sooner.
Marijuana Moment reached the committee’s majority staff and requested comment on why it discharged the bill, but they did not have an immediate response.
Nearly one-half of all House members (206 representatives) have so far signed onto the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act as cosponsors.
Its placement on the Union Calendar, which is separate from the House Calendar and is generally meant for tax and appropriations legislation that has passed in committee, signals that a full floor vote may be imminent. However, it’s not clear exactly when the chamber will take it up as no vote has been scheduled and it has not yet been listed among active legislation before the body’s Rules Committee, which procedurally prepares bills for floor action.
But advocates celebrated the latest step in the cannabis banking legislation’s advancement.
“We remain encouraged at the steady progress the SAFE Banking Act is making,” said Neal Levine, CEO of Cannabis Trade Federation. “With over 200 sponsors, it is a near certainty that we can expect this key piece of legislation to pass the full US House in the near future, and we hope the US Senate takes note of the strong bipartisan support and advances the bill as well.”
Michael Correia, government relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said that House Democratic leaders should be “applauded” for advancing the bill.
“After years of tireless work by cannabis activists, we are excited about this potential congressional vote on SAFE Banking,” he said. “It will hopefully be the first of many cannabis reform bills that correct the flaws with our outdated federal policies.”
While the financial services-focused bill already has sizable bipartisan appeal, lawmakers are also considering introducing amendments to garner more Republican support. Proposals to extend the banking protections to hemp and CBD businesses and also block regulators from going after certain unrelated controversial business sectors like the gun and payday loans industries are reportedly on the table.
Part of the reason Democratic lawmakers are taking pains to reach across the aisle is the uncertainty the bill faces in the Senate. It’s all but certain to pass in the House, advocates believe, but the chair of the Senate Banking Committee has declined to commit to bringing the legislation to a vote, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains averse to bills concerning his esteemed hemp’s “illicit cousin” marijuana.
That said, some senators told Marijuana Moment in recent interviews that they’re optimistic that Senator Mike Crapo, the banking panel’s chairman, will bring up the bill in spite of his reservations.
Reluctant Senate leaders might feel better about the legislation since a recent Congressional Budget Office score of the bill projected that it would save the federal government millions of dollars over time if implemented.
But regardless of where the chamber stands on the proposal, it’s clear that financial institutions are eager for a resolution. Banking associations representing all 50 states called on Congress to pass the bill, as did the National Association of Attorneys General and the National Association of State Treasurers.
Read a new report on the cannabis banking bill with its current text and list of cosponsors: