Key US senator downplays hopes for quick action on marijuana banking bill

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The head of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee threw cold water on hopes for speedy action in the upper chamber on a major marijuana banking reform bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed this week in a bipartisan vote.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, told reporters Wednesday he’s interested in the legislation – known as the SAFE Banking Act – but he doesn’t yet back it “because I think we need to look at a number of things,” reported.

Brown said he’s brought the bill up with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, “and will see where it goes.”

“This committee’s been too much about Wall Street and not enough about housing, not enough about rural and urban affairs and people’s everyday economic lives, and that’s my focus,” said Brown, according to “I will look at this seriously. We’re not ready to move on it.”

The SAFE Act would enable banks and other financial institutions to serve state-legal marijuana businesses without fear of federal punishment.

The House passed the bill Monday in a 321-101 vote. It was the first major piece of marijuana legislation to be approved by the new Democratic-controlled Congress.

More than half of the Republicans who voted supported the bill. All Democrats who voted approved the measure.

Prospects for Senate passage are considered brighter than in previous years after Democrats won slim control of the upper chamber in the recent election.

But Brown’s comments underscore that passage of the legislation is not assured.