Another prominent Democratic Senator Supports the New Marijuana Legalization Bill, but Stresses the Importance of Banking Reform

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The third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, who welcomed the measure’s introduction but emphasized the need to keep working to pass cannabis banking legislation as soon as possible, is one of the two new cosponsors of the long-awaited Senate marijuana legalization bill that was formally filed on Thursday.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), Assistant Democratic Leader, now has five senators on board. That includes the three principal sponsors: Senator Cory Booker, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NJ).

In a press statement, Murray stated that it was past time for the federal government to catch up to Washington state’s cannabis legislation. The purpose of this law is to advance justice, boost our economy, and modernize the federal government.

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The repeal of policies that have disproportionately hurt people of color will be accomplished under our bill; this is very significant. By finally acknowledging the cannabis business and updating federal legislation, it will help boost our economy, the senator claimed.

The bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would shield financial institutions that collaborate with cannabis businesses operating under state law from being penalized by federal authorities, is also notably mentioned in the statement. Although it has already cleared the House seven times, it has not yet moved forward in the Senate.

Murray added, “I am completely committed to passing SAFE Banking however possible—including as a standalone bill—even though the reforms we are asking for are vital and long overdue. Legal cannabis businesses shouldn’t be required to run exclusively on cash, and my measure would bring them into the proper financial system where they belong.

Multiple times, Schumer has stated that he will not put SAFE Banking to a vote before comprehensive legalization centered on justice and equity. Similar threats were made by Booker to obstruct any attempt in the chamber to move the banking issue first.

Murray, a member of a bicameral conference committee who also pushed for the inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in a bill governing large-scale manufacturing, appears to be acknowledging that while the CAOA’s goals are admirable and deserving of support, getting the legislation passed will be much more difficult.

cannabis bill senate

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Given the absence of GOP support and the lack of agreement among the Democratic caucus, some would contend that it is impossible to obtain the 60 votes necessary for the Senate to pass that full legalization package.

 

But the marijuana banking bill, which presently has 42 sponsors in the Senate, including nine Republicans, is a different situation. Additionally demonstrating the growing bipartisan support for the incremental reform is the House’s repeated adoption of the bill.

In light of this, Murray’s statement adds to the doubt that CAOA will be passed this year, despite the sponsors’ year-long efforts to gather feedback from supporters, stakeholders, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Even Schumer has stated that his legalization bill will serve as a “catalyst” for a shift in policy, raising the possibility that its different features might act as the foundation for an alternative set of reforms that he has been talking about with bicameral and bipartisan offices.

Although a deal on that marijuana package has not yet been reached, it is anticipated to include important provisions including access to the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) for the cannabis business, cannabis banking, veterans’ marijuana research, and more.

The SAFE Banking Act is sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines as a separate piece of Senate legislation (R-MT). Schumer and his colleagues have come under fire from disappointed stakeholders for delaying the bill’s vote until substantial reform has been implemented, but there are signs that a compromise could be on the way.

For instance, Schumer has said he is open to improving on the banking measure to include particular equity provisions that would make it more agreeable to him as discussions about an incremental cannabis reform plan have progressed. The banking-specific wording in CAOA does include equity provisions linked to it, which might act as the basis for future legislation.

In any case, talks on a different strategy are still going on, although CAOA is present. Although its future beyond that panel is unclear, it is anticipated to be examined before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting that is scheduled for next week and will be presided over by Booker.

As a result of the leadership’s decision to exclude the America COMPETES Act from the manufacturing bill, certain conference negotiators’ attempts to reach an agreement on SAFE Banking have failed.

The bill’s principal supporter in the House, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who has been the most outspoken legislator on Capitol Hill calling for its adoption, has subsequently adopted yet another strategy to pass the measure. It was successfully tacked on to defense legislation that the House passed this month. But it’s still unclear if the Senate will support it in this instance.

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