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Schumer: Senate ‘Very Close’ To Passing SAFE Banking Act

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that he and his colleagues are “very close” to passing legislation that would authorize financial institutions to provide services to cannabis businesses.

Schumer indicated that his New York senator race was close to gaining full passage of the SAFE Banking Act during a debate.

“I am working in a bipartisan way with Democrats and Republicans to take the SAFE Banking Act, which allows financial institutions to involve themselves in cannabis companies and lend money to them—but it also does some things for justice, such as expunging a record,” Schumer said during the debate, as quoted by Seeking Alpha.

The SAFE Banking Act was passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in February, marking the sixth time that the body approved the legislation. 

This legislation was introduced for the first time in 2013 It would be a great resource for cannabis sellers in legal states that have made adult-use marijuana legal if it becomes law. 

These shops are more prone to being robbed due to large cash amounts. 

This March, Seattle TimesReports indicate that 70 armed robberies took place in Washington in the first quarter of this year. It was almost twice as many as in 2021, and more than double what it was in 2020.

“You rob the places where the cash is,” Washington state treasurer Mike Pellicciotti said on a trip earlier this year to Washington, where he lobbied lawmakers to pass the SAFE Banking Act. “These robberies are tragic. But these robberies are also preventable.”

”You can’t have a $1.4 billion a year transaction taking place in the state of Washington in cash and not have the risk of these type of robberies … It’s time,” Pellicciotti added.

Pellicciotti and other state treasurers have been among the bill’s biggest advocates.

“Colorado weed stores, along with other states with legal cannabis businesses, are headed into their busiest week of the year,” Colorado state treasurer Dave Young tweeted earlier this year ahead of the 4/20 festivities, “yet these businesses must dangerously operate in a cash-based world. Let’s pass the #SAFEBankingAct this #fourtwenty.”

Schumer and other Democratic leaders have been committed to passing some form of cannabis legislation since their party gained control of Congress, the White House and Congress in 2020. 

Schumer spoke confidently last year about passing a federal legalization bill––even as President Joe Biden expressed reluctance about fully lifting prohibition.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said at the time. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I]He will appreciate a bit of time for it to be read. He will hear my arguments, just like many others. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

The House adopted the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act in April. It would eliminate cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a federal statute that enshrines prohibition. 

Democrats in the Senate said that they would produce their own legalization bill, but the legislation’s release never came.

Now, with the midterm elections slated for next week––and with Democrats in jeopardy of losing control of both the House and the Senate––the hopes for federal legalization are dimming. 

That isn’t to say that cannabis reform advocates have come up completely empty with Democrats in charge.

Biden revealed last month that he will issue pardons to all federal marijuana possession convictions. Biden indicated that he would like to get cannabis out of the Controlled Substances Act.

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said in his announcement.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

As Seeking Alpha noted, the version of the SAFE Banking Act under consideration “includes both banking reform and marijuana conviction expungements.”