Lawmakers have delayed the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act into the Defense Bill due to unresolved disagreements on key issues between politicians. The SAFE Banking Act aims to protect financial institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses. Several offices of Republican senators have been discussing their concerns about the Act with the Department of Justice.
The SAFE Banking Act
The SAFE Banking act continues to see further complications as the Justice Department issued a memo to senators expressing concerns about cannabis banking. A version of the defense legislation that includes the language of the SAFE Banking Act was already approved by the House earlier this year. They were still determining whether Senate would go along with the Act.
Advocates anticipate that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be used for cannabis banking. However, in the scheduled meeting with the House Rules Committee, Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) expressed that the text needs to be finalized before the committee takes up the NDAA. A separate legislative vehicle that previously refused to include cannabis banking reform as part of the 2021 bill is being used to pursue the NDAA.
Lawmakers have been allegedly discussing adding language that protects cannabis users from federal restrictions on owning a firearm. A report confirmed that the Plus package does include Gun Rights and Marijuana Act (GRAM).
The House sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), believes that the SAFE Banking act will be passed soon after observing senate discussions. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also shares the same belief and refers to the Act as a priority.
Objections To Cannabis Banking
Advocates’ support of the SAFE Plus package will largely depend on the changes made to the language; they are not happy with the current provisions. They want the Act to include funding for institutions that lend commercial loans to minority-owned businesses, such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Deposit Institutions (MDIs).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has strongly criticized the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act into the larger-scale defense bill. McConnell stated that democrats should pass the SAFE banking act as stand-alone legislation instead of attaching it to the defense bill. While on the floor, McConnell described the Act as “a grab bag of miscellaneous pet priorities,” which would, in all likelihood, encourage the sympathizing of illegal drugs.
Republicans and Democrats have repeatedly used defense and spending bills to sneak special interest projects and proposals through the budget. Yet, there have been ongoing concerns regarding cannabis banking when so many legitimate business owners are greatly affected by the lack of protection from the punitive measures taken by federal regulators.
The Final Decision
Following a meeting on Wednesday, the SAFE Banking Act was excluded from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), the efforts of Perlmutter and others who see the significance of passing this legislation have made a “huge difference,” as there are now 59 votes in the Senate that favor the passage of the Act.
Rep.Ed Perlmutter plans to pursue the cannabis banking reform through appropriations legislation. He is optimistic that the Banking Act can be passed as a stand-alone piece of legislation following the vote since the minimum requirement is 60 votes.
Concerns from senate offices and outright opposition to the SAFE Banking Act have contributed to the delay in its inclusion into the defense bill. The Banking Act was ultimately excluded from the bill. However, the vote showed significant support for the act, which could make it possible to pass it as a stand-alone piece of legislation.
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