Marijuana banking could pass this year with criminal expungement, reports say

The passage of federal cannabis banking reform is considered possible this year, provided it’s combined with an existing marijuana expungement bill, according to published reports.

According to Politico on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently had discussions with Ohio House Republican David Joyce about possibly combining the SAFE Banking Act with Joyce’s Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act.

The HOPE Act would direct funds to states for marijuana conviction-expungement efforts while SAFE Banking would enable financial institutions to provide traditional banking services to state-legal marijuana businesses.

Steve Hawkins, president and CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council, told MJBizDaily earlier this year the HOPE Act might offer the criminal justice provisions that aren’t currently included in the SAFE Banking legislation but which are desired by Schumer and other progressives such as New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.

Saphira Galoob, principal and CEO of The Liaison Group, a cannabis lobbying firm in Washington DC, also discussed such a strategy earlier this year with MJBizDaily as well as the need for incremental progress to maintain momentum for enacting federal marijuana reform.

Another positive sign for this strategy to advance is that progressive New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced HOPE in the U.S. House of Representatives with Joyce.

Pablo Zuanic, an investment analyst with New York-based Cantor Fitzgerald, wrote in a research note Friday he sees the reported talks between Schumer and Joyce as significant because “it signals Sen Schumer (who pretty much alone holds the keys to passage of the SAFE banking reform bill) may be open to a reasonable and realistic compromise in passing SAFE.”

At the same time, Zuanic doubts the SAFE Banking bill will make it through to the final version of an American competitiveness legislation now being discussed in a House-Senate conference committee.

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The latest development, he wrote, indicates that Schumer, who had been pushing for his own comprehensive federal marijuana reform but has delayed its introduction, might consider the HOPE Act to be a sufficient compromise this year.

“We would have thought Sen. Schumer would want more than HOPE, but this may be a sign he is starting to feel the pressure/lobbying, and something could be passed this year,” Zuanic wrote.