Why it matters:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer believes that the end of the federal cannabis prohibition is approaching, with legislation to provide banking services to the cannabis industry in progress. The passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act (SAFER Banking Act) would allow financial institutions to offer small business loans to cannabis retailers and provide legal protection for banks working with the industry.
What they are saying:
Schumer highlighted that the War on Drugs, which disproportionately impacted Black and brown communities, failed to reduce drug abuse and instead led to the criminalization of these communities. He emphasized the need to rectify these injustices through the passage of the SAFER Banking Act. Supporters of the bill argue that allowing banks to work with the cannabis industry will enhance public safety and prevent criminal activities associated with the cash-only nature of the industry.
The big picture:
The SAFER Banking Act has been approved multiple times by the U.S. House of Representatives but has failed to gain the necessary votes in the Senate. However, the shift in public opinion and the legalization of cannabis in more states are increasing the pressure to end federal prohibition. Passing this legislation would address the challenges faced by the cash-dependent cannabis industry and promote more equitable access to banking services.
What to watch:
Observers are skeptical about whether the SAFER Banking Act will finally pass, considering past challenges and potential opposition. Republican Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer criticized the Senate rewrite of the bill, suggesting it may face difficulties in the House. The outcome of the legislation and any potential amendments or compromises will be important to monitor.
The passage of the SAFER Banking Act would be a significant step in the right direction for the cannabis industry. Providing access to banking services would not only enhance public safety but also support businesses in accessing capital and conducting financial transactions more efficiently. Additionally, addressing the harmful impact of the War on Drugs and promoting social equity in the industry should be prioritized. The evolving public opinion on cannabis and the legalization efforts across states contribute to the growing momentum for federal cannabis reform.