Cannabis banking reform reintroduced in US Senate

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Less than a week after pro-cannabis banking legislation was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, a parallel bipartisan measure was revived in the Senate – a move that drew applause from marijuana industry advocates.

Sens. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, and Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, and 27 co-sponsors on Tuesday reintroduced the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate, according to a National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) news release.

The bill would provide safe harbor to any financial institutions that work with state-legal marijuana companies, even while MJ remains federally illegal.

Industry insiders have long viewed such a move as a gateway to banking access, since most large financial institutions remain wary of connections with the industry, given marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

The House passed the same bill in 2020 with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, but the measure stalled in the Senate at the hands of then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was known to be unfriendly toward marijuana-reform efforts.

But now that Congress is Democratic-controlled, the bill’s chances are considered much improved.

“With new Senate leadership now firmly in favor of cannabis policy reform, we are optimistic that this narrowly tailored – but absolutely necessary – legislation will be allowed to progress through the hearing process,” Aaron Smith, CEO of the NCIA, said in the release.