On Friday, a complex juxtaposition arose as two very different types of federal cannabis reforms were in the spotlight, in D.C. and in New York.
In Congress, the House passed the America COMPETES Act with Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act language tucked in, making it the sixth time the House put the cannabis banking Act in the hands of the Senate. Rep. Ed Perlmutter proposed the amendment to include language that protects financial institutions who want to serve cannabis businesses. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a news conference on Friday morning near the steps of New York City Hall to push support for a comprehensive and justice-focused approach to federal cannabis reform, along the lines of what his Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act proposes.
This juxtaposition is noteworthy considering Perlmutter and Schumer appeared at odds the last time Perlmutter tried to get SAFE Banking out of Congress as an amendment, which was through the National Defense Authorization Act in December. Even though the House approved it, the SAFE Banking language was stripped from the final version, which Perlmutter said at the time was “frustrating.”
“Precisely why the Majority Leader Mr. Schumer is opposed to this is still pretty much a mystery to me, makes no sense,” Perlmutter said at the time, as Cannabis Wire reported.
Perlmutter will not seek re-election this year. When he brought forth SAFE Banking as an amendment to COMPETES, last month, he said, “I will continue to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking over the finish line and signed into law.”
More than 200 miles north, on Friday, Schumer took to the steps near New York City Hall under a raw, soggy rain to reiterate that, as Majority Leader, he “can set priorities,” later tweeting that “comprehensive federal marijuana legalization with justice for the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs—especially communities of color—is a Senate priority.”
Schumer was joined by U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, New York Sen. Diane Savino, and advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY, and other groups.
When SAFE Banking was stripped from the final version of the NDAA in December, Maritza Perez, director of the office of national Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Cannabis Wire that she felt “relief.” As Cannabis Wire has reported, the question of whether SAFE should be passed ahead of more comprehensive reforms is one that has divided advocates and lawmakers that otherwise agree on the need for federal cannabis legalization.
“I think that Congress would have been making a huge mistake by prioritizing that bill over something that’s more comprehensive that centers people who have been most impacted by the war on drugs,” Perez said.
While it’s been almost exactly one year since Schumer, along with Sens. Booker and Wyden, first announced they would push for “comprehensive reform,” and more than six months since they released a discussion draft of this reform bill, Schumer said on Friday that their goal is to introduce the final language of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in April.
The SAFE Banking Act has been the focus of more intense lobbying attention than any other cannabis legislation, as Cannabis Wire has reported, including from entities like the American Bankers Association and Paypal. Even the state of Nevada and the city of Sacramento, California, have registered to lobby on cannabis banking. A number of cannabis-focused companies have also registered, from Pax Labs to Curaleaf.