Democrats Push For Historic Banking Bill In Covid Relief Package
The slimmed-down Coronavirus Aid Act, released Monday by House Democrats, once again provides protections for marijuana banks. The SAFE Banking Act will be reintroduced as a new law and could force a vote as early as this week. It would be the third time the chamber has taken such a measure in the past year. Republican lawmakers questioned whether the language on cannabis was included in an earlier version approved by the House of Representatives in May.
The SAFE Banking Act already has significant bipartisan support and would protect financial institutions that protect state-legal - marijuana businesses from federal penalties. The inclusion of COVID-19 in the aid program has been widely criticized by Republicans, who insist there is no link between cannabis and other illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Other vocal opponents include Republican James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Sen. John Cornyn (D-Texas). He was particularly critical of a House proposal in May that specifically targeted coverage of the industry's diversity.
The pandemic is by no means inhumane, but it only underlines the importance of the legislation. Democratic leaders, who are clearly bipartisan in their support of the SAFE Banking Act, appreciate that Republicans in Congress prefer to treat public safety issues as some kind of comic relief, "Steve Fox, president of VS Strategies, told Marijuana Moment. The Senate did not include that wording in the cannabis banking easing bill passed in July.
At a time when businesses across the country are relying on electronic transactions to protect public health, cannabis companies are being forced to simultaneously exchange their currency for cash and other forms of money, such as credit cards. A summary of the banking bill crafted by House leaders says it would allow legitimate businesses, which in many states have no bank accounts of their own, access to "the full range of financial services available to them." In particular, the document highlighted language in the Diversity Report that Republicans opposed, but Democrats were not shy about that component of criticism. This bill is timely and necessary, "the bill's lead sponsor, Republican John Conyers (D-Mich.), said in a statement.
Advocates, advocacy groups, and lawmakers argue that providing protections for marijuana banks could stem the spread of the coronavirus by making it harder for cannabis companies to rely on cash. The law says it requires a report to Congress on the potential for existing legitimate business-related to minority-owned cannabis.
Unfortunately, the federal ban exacerbates the problems of this emerging industry, "he said. While gradual reform would help ease financial complications in the cannabis market, advocates who were disappointed when the chamber's leadership decided earlier this month to postpone a scheduled vote on the House version of the marijuana tax and regulation bill may be frustrated by the House Democrats "decision to" crackdown "on the industry. Although most states have yet to regulate marijuana markets, federal law considers bank protection provisions for cannabis companies essential. Republican Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he agreed that the measure was an appropriate part of his bill.
The House of Representatives was expected to hold a landmark vote on the statewide legalization of cannabis last week, but leaders said they delayed it after moderate Democrats raised concerns about the optics of progress on marijuana reform without passing additional relief for COVID first. In the past, activists have argued that lawmakers should approve the SAFE Banking Act before marijuana is legalized and restorative justice measures implemented. Banking regulations are seen as pro-industry because they address systemic problems arising from the war on drugs.
Others see bank protection as a boon to social justice because it would help minority companies that currently have difficulty accessing capital and financial services. While much - needed - capital must be maintained during a crisis, "it is possible that we see it that way," Strekal said.
While Republicans attacked the House proposal, a group of Democratic Treasury officials renewed their demands. In July, they sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for the SAFE Banking Act to be included in the COVID-19 bill sent to the president's desk.
The SAFE Banking Act was passed by the House of Representatives last year, but the bill stalled in the Senate Banking Committee, where negotiations are ongoing.