Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) again took to the floor to reiterate the “critical” importance of adding criminal justice reform provisions such as expungements to a bipartisan marijuana banking bill.
In a speech about recent legislative accomplishments on Thursday, Schumer noted the reintroduction of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would “enable cannabis businesses to access critical banking infrastructure.”
“Just last week, the [Senate Banking Committee] held its first hearing on this legislation,” he said. “And I will also work to make sure we include critical criminal justice provisions to SAFE Banking.”
Watch Schumer discuss the marijuana banking bill in the video below:
While senators plan to move the clean standalone bill through committee, the majority leader has repeatedly emphasized his intent to incorporate additional language centered around equity, including expungements legislation, when it reaches the floor.
Schumer’s called broader effort to repair the harms of the drug war a “moral responsibility” for Congress.
He also said that he wants a committee vote scheduled in the panel “in the near future” so that members can discuss proposed additions. Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also said recently that senators planned to “move quickly” on the SAFE Banking Act.
Beyond expungements, advocates and stakeholders aren’t fully aligned on what they’d like to see attached to the banking bill.
For example, one coalition of groups send a letter to committee leadership on Thursday calling for an expansion of the bill’s financial protections to permit cannabis industry access to major U.S. stock exchanges—a request that’s faced some criticism from other advocates who say that would be an inappropriate move to help businesses while efforts to legalize marijuana stall in Congress.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) also recently said that she wanted the SAFE Banking Act to pass with an amendment allowing cannabis businesses to access federal Small Business Administration (SBA) services.
Last month, Schumer said that he was “disappointed” that a so-called SAFE Plus package of cannabis reform legislation didn’t advance last year, saying “we came close,” but “we ran into opposition in the last minute.” He said lawmakers will continue to “work in a bipartisan way” to get the job done.
The majority leader has been holding meetings with Democratic and Republican members in the early months of the new Congress to discuss cannabis reform proposals that might have bipartisan buy-in this year.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said recently that lawmakers are working to “resurrect” the cannabis reform package, acknowledging that failure to advance a banking fix for the industry “literally means that hundreds of businesses go out of business.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who is a lead sponsor of the House version of the SAFE Banking Act, said at a recent press briefing that thinks it’s important that advocates and lawmakers align on any incremental proposals to end the drug war, warning against an “all-or-nothing” mentality.
The American Bankers Association (ABA) also recently renewed its call for the passage of the legislation. And all 50 of its state chapters did the same, as did insurance and union organizations, in recent letters to congressional leadership.
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