Cannabis News of Note for the Week:
Politico Pro Cannabis: Schumer Sells SAFE Banking (paywalled newsletter, full text below)
Politico Pro Cannabis: Bills, Bills, Bills & Safe and Safe Alone (paywalled newsletter, full text below)
Cannabis Reports of Note for the Week:
Politico Pro Cannabis: SCHUMER SELLS SAFE BANKING — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) leaned into a cannabis policy package anchored by the SAFE Banking Act during a speech at the National Cannabis Policy Festival on Thursday.
Schumer said he made passing the SAFE Banking Act “plus” a priority — while referring to his comprehensive bill to decriminalize, tax and regulate cannabis nationally an important “marker.”
The priority he gave the cannabis banking legislation in his speech signaled his focus on that as the main legislative effort he is throwing his weight behind in this Congress.
“We’ve come together to pass a bill that can produce a strong majority in the Senate,” Schumer said. “Because putting bills in [Congress] which we want to do isn’t as good as passing legislation that actually makes things happen.”
The SAFE Banking Act, which was first proposed in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in 2017, has garnered support from both sides of the aisle in both chambers. It is the most likely cannabis bill to move in this Congress.
After introducing the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) last year, Schumer shifted his focus to brokering a deal with GOP Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.), Merkley and others on SAFE. While the package they decided on ultimately failed to pass in the eleventh hour of 2022, all parties involved are still working on it in 2023.
That may be because there are not 60 votes for marijuana decriminalization in the Senate, as Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper (D) pointed out during another panel on Thursday moderated by Mona.
After his speech, Schumer did not dispute Hickenlooper’s assessment, but told Natalie they are “making good progress” and are “working hard to get there.”
Schumer also added during his speech that he is working with his colleagues “to introduce [CAOA] with even more Democratic support than we had last year,” though he painted a long term picture when discussing the decriminalization legislation.
“We will get passed as … broad a bill as we can, but we know we need to go further,” Schumer said. “And that’s why having this bill as our marker is so, so important.”
Meanwhile, a veterans bill is moving towards a floor vote … Schumer on Thursday filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, which passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in February. The Senate vote on cloture on the motion will likely be on April 26. The vote on the bill and any amendments has not yet been scheduled, but will come soon after the cloture vote.
Politico Pro Cannabis: BILLS BILLS BILLS — It’s one day until April 20, and you know what that means: it’s time for Congress to reintroduce a slate of cannabis bills. A bipartisan bill to create federal grants for state-level cannabis expungement programs (the HOPE Act) was reintroduced on Tuesday by Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.). Both also led the bill in the last Congress.
At nearly the same time, a bill to solve one of the biggest problems facing the cannabis industry was reintroduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The Small Business Tax Equity Act would address section 280E of the tax code, which prohibits cannabis businesses from writing off many standard business expenses like rent and payroll because they are selling an illegal drug. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act, the same category as heroin.
The outlook for HOPE is the strongest, because it was paired at the end of the last congress with the SAFE Banking Act and the GRAM Act to create the “SAFE Plus” package that nearly passed the Senate in the eleventh hour. Some Democrats want a package backed by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to include the HOPE Act again in this Congress.
Politico Pro Cannabis: SAFE AND SAFE ALONE — Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) hopes to hold a hearing on the SAFE Banking Act in the next few months, he told Natalie on the Hill on Tuesday.
“We’re close,” he said. “Next couple of months, for sure.”
The hearing, he added, will just be on the SAFE Banking Act (which has not yet been reintroduced) — and will not cover other legislation that would address things like criminal justice reform. Those provisions — the HOPE Act included — were floated as part of a deal struck between Schumer and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) last Congress.
“The criminal justice stuff, that’s in [the Senate] Judiciary [Committee], not in ours,” Brown said. “So that will be pulled together on the floor, presumably.”
Democrats have said they want to move a package of cannabis legislation built around SAFE in this Congress, rather than simply the standalone SAFE Banking.