A cannabis banking bill that has been the focus of intense attention from industry stakeholders for years was introduced today, revised and with a new name: the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act.
Earlier versions of the legislation, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, cleared the House seven times, but never the Senate. This time, lawmakers have signaled a deal in the Senate and have messaged around its strong bipartisan support.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the new bill on Wednesday, alongside several co-sponsors: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Arkansas), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).
The Senate Banking Committee is expected to debate and vote on the bill on Sept. 27.
“This agreement allows cannabis businesses that have traditionally operated in cash to finally have the opportunity to accept credit and debit cards, allowing them to grow their businesses, pay their employees, protect their customers and ensure public safety,” Schumer said in a statement shared with Cannabis Wire on Wednesday.
Over the years, there has been considerable debate over whether the bill does anything to help equity in the industry. In December, when a potential deal on SAFE seemed imminent, compromise between Democrats and Republicans took the form of a package called “SAFE Plus” that included legislation on expungements and guns.
It looks like the package will return this time around, too. On Wednesday, Schumer pledged to bring the SAFER Banking Act to the floor quickly, and added that he’s “committed” to adding these other bills. The Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act would allocate funding for states pursuing expungements of cannabis offenses, and the Gun Rights And Marijuana (GRAM) Act would extend Second Amendment protections to legal cannabis consumers.
“I’ve long advocated for expungement of records for cannabis offenses, and with SAFER Banking moving through the committee in such a strong, bipartisan way, I believe now is the time to get it done,” Schumer said in a statement.
The language of the banking bill is mostly unchanged from the last version, with one big exception: Section 10, which has raised concerns since a May hearing in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, as Cannabis Wire reported. The issue, in short, came down to whether language intended to protect cannabis businesses from discrimination would unintentionally tie banks’ hands when it came to regulating against bad actors and fraud. This section of the bill has now doubled in length.
Cannabis banking has attracted more lobbying interest than any other cannabis effort in Congress to-date, as Cannabis Wire has reported. This includes household names, from American Express and PayPal to major insurance groups like the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.