Cannabis News of Note for the Week:
Politico Pro Cannabis: Senators push for SAFE Banking in defense bill (paywalled, full text below)
Politico Pro Cannabis: White House Takes Meetings on SAFE Banking (11/30 newsletter, full text below)
Cannabis Reports of Note for the Week:
Politico Pro Cannabis: Senators push for SAFE Banking in defense bill
BY: NATALIE FERTIG | 12/02/2022 02:54 PM EST
A landmark bill that would make it easier for banks and other financial institutions to service the cannabis industry could finally be poised for passage.
The SAFE Banking Act could be included in the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress is expected to take up next week.
Republican senators had a “productive” meeting about the legislation on Thursday with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told POLITICO. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate Banking Committee, said he “hopes” it is in the NDAA.
The final decision is likely to be made on Monday, when the House Rules Committee meets to tee up the compromise version of the NDAA for a vote on the House floor as early as Tuesday. A final version of the defense bill was expected to be filed Friday, but has been delayed as House and Senate leaders iron out last-minute issues around what outside bills should be attached.
The banking bill initially passed the House more than three years ago, and has since passed that chamber five additional times. But it’s never made any progress in the Senate.
Supporters believe the votes are there. “Even as a stand-alone, I think there’s more than 60 votes for it,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a longtime supporter of the bill and one of its early Republican co-sponsors.
There may be changes to the bill: One potential change would codify protections for cannabis industry workers, who often are denied auto and home loans and sometimes have their personal bank accounts closed due to their ties to the federally illegal marijuana industry.
There also may be changes to enforcement language. A Department of Justice memo first reported by Punchbowl news outlined the agency’s concerns with the way that the SAFE Banking Act is written.
According to the memo, the language of the bill is too broad and would leave open loopholes for legal cannabis businesses to also break other laws. Because the bill’s protections are focused on “cannabis-related legitimate” businesses, rather than specifying cannabis-related business activities that are protected, the DOJ argues that a licensed cannabis business engaged in illegal activity would also be protected under the wording. Instead, the DOJ memo suggested that the bill specify the protected cannabis-related activities.
The DOJ’s concerns are shared by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, who on Thursday said he would vote against SAFE if it comes up for a standalone vote.
“I really don’t like it for the reason that … it’ll cut into one of the tools that we use to stop money laundering,” Grassley said. If it’s added to other legislation, however, “then it depends on what otherwise might be in the legislation.”
It’s unclear if changes to the bill would in turn garner Grassley’s support, and it’s also unclear how the surfacing of the DOJ memo — which has been circulating since the Spring, according to Punchbowl — will change the dynamics in the final stretch.
Politico Pro Cannabis: WHITE HOUSE TAKES MEETINGS ON SAFE BANKING — Washington state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti met with White House officials the week before Thanksgiving to discuss the SAFE Banking Act, POLITICO has learned. The meeting comes as Congress searches for a deal on cannabis banking legislation that will appease both conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Pellicciotti works closely with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of Senate Democratic leadership who will serve as president pro tempore starting next session. Murray’s influence is significant, and she has championed SAFE repeatedly this year.
So what? We don’t know if President Joe Biden will back the SAFE Banking Act, but the fact that the White House is taking meetings to talk about the issue indicates there is substantial discussion happening around the legislation. Congress has some other big tasks facing it in the last few weeks of the lame-duck session, however, including averting a railroad strike and a government shutdown. It’s possible that Congress simply runs out of time to address cannabis banking — even if there is sufficient support for passage.
Support: Nine Republicans are co-sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act as it stands, but there is another Republican to add to the list of supporters: Alabama Live reports that Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who is not a current cosponsor, supports the legislation.