How the cannabis banking bill fares in the Senate will determine the future of national marijuana reform
We’ll learn the cold, harsh truth about the Senate’s power to pass sweeping marijuana law in 2021. Any glimmer of hope that the nation will see marijuana legalization nationally this year ultimately depends on the survival of a humble cannabis bank account.
The House of Representatives just passed a measure related to cannabis known as the SAFE Banking Act in a vote of 321-101. Before you get too excited, know that this proposal isn’t really a call for marijuana law reform. All it would do is give banks permission to do business with the cannabis industry. It enables state-level cannabis operations to be seen as legitimate businesses in their communities. It wouldn’t legalize anything; it does not change the attitude of the federal government towards the herb; It only prevents federal law enforcement agencies from harassing banks that accept deposits from top companies. ((Note:No such harassment has been reported since legalization began in the US.)
This is not the first time the SAFE Banking Act has passed the House. It was back in 2019 before it was crushed by a Republican-dominated Senate. But it’s different now, isn’t it? The Democrats have a majority in the upper chamber this time around – they set the tone – so it stands to reason that this marijuana bank bill should be passed with flying colors.
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Let’s hope so, because if this humble bill doesn’t reach the Senate, there’s no chance much bigger bills calling for an end to the federal pot ban will end up on the steps of the White House.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently said he would like the SAFE Banking Act to be passed as part of a comprehensive marijuana effort to change national pot laws. All this time, Schumer has been preaching the need to end the ban – through legalization or decriminalization, whichever is easier for President Joe Biden to swallow – and clear the criminal records of people with pot convictions. Its goal appears to be to reassure states as they pass their pot laws without passing federal regulations that would allow Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco to hijack the industry. It is conceivable that Schumer’s proposal, which is to be introduced “soon”, already contains a version of SAFE Banking.
But if Schumer allows the House version to be put to the vote, cannabis advocates will finally see the real influence of the Democratic Senate in its drive to change the pot laws. Schumer could also wait until his bill is ready.
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If the SAFE Banking Act were put to a vote in the Senate, it would be vulnerable to the filibuster – an old Senate rule that requires a majority of 60 votes. We would then see how much bipartisan support this measure really has. It is possible that it could happen without any problem. Finally, the bill would also make it easier for hemp farmers to do business with banks, which Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell may have on board at this point.
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However, it is unlikely that he would want to band together to advance the democratic agenda. Republicans are still concerned about the 2020 election and how the Democrats have relied on budget-voting methods to get the Biden Agenda off the ground without their input.
So there is vengeance.
A bettor (or woman) should closely monitor the progress of the SAFE Banking Act as he marches to the Senate. What happens from that point on could indicate how good the prospect of federal marijuana legalization is. When it’s over, perhaps more Republican attitudes will become progressive. If it doesn’t, there’s little chance that anything more substantial would do the same. Unfortunately, this could be both the beginning and the end of the Democratic push to legalize marijuana.