Congress could include cannabis banking in FAA, crypto bills

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Supporters of long-awaited cannabis banking reform are pinning hopes on Congress packaging a marijuana bill with must-pass legislation.

Congress has yet to get the SAFER Banking Act across the finish line despite almost a decade of trying – and repeated success in the House of Representatives.

According to Barron’s, one option for SAFER Banking involves packaging the bill with cryptocurrency reform.

A marijuana reform/crypto bill then would be included in a must-pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill.

Banking reform supporters have attempted such techniques in the past without success.

In December 2022, efforts failed to include cannabis banking with a budget or defense-spending bill, thanks in large part to Republican opposition.

It’s unclear whether chances of passage are better this year.

Though banking advocates have vowed to attach cannabis banking “to any train that’s leaving the station,” as U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer said last week, analyst Isaac Boltansky told Barron’s that a “stablecoin/cannabis banking deal is possible, but not yet probable.”

The FAA bill must be passed by May 10, the expiration date for a short-term funding bill for the agency, which regulates airline travel.

Folding marijuana banking in with a cryptocurrency bill has been considered by both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Barron’s noted.

Both Schumer and Brown are vocal proponents of SAFER Banking, though Schumer did not call for a full vote on the bill after its historic hearing in Brown’s committee last fall; backers believed SAFER Banking did not have the necessary 60 votes to pass the full Senate at the time.

More recently, marijuana banking’s chances in the House have become uncertain.

With his leadership position in jeopardy, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson might be loath to push for legislation that could anger his caucus.

And marijuana banking reform might be a divisive topic, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said last week.