Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Is SAFE Banking Act Getting Closer To Passage? Senators Agree This Issue Is At Play

Rep. Ed Perlmutter said the SAFE Banking bill “obviously is a public safety issue. It is a tax issue. It is an issue of civil justice (…) We can get this done. We will get this done. We need some more Republican cosponsors.”

By Joana Scopel

Sponsors of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act recently discussed the urgency of enacting cannabis reform this session, reiterating the public safety imperative of providing the industry access to the financial system.

Bipartisan and bicameral sponsors of banking reform said “it’s time to take action on the House-passed standalone legislation,” reported Marijuana Moment.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) brought together more than 100 stakeholders for two days of lobbying on Capitol Hill involving more than 100 meetings with legislators and staff to advocate for the Cannabis Act Banking SAFE to be enacted in 2022.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, talked about  violent crime targeting marijuana businesses and workers, as well as bipartisan support for stand-alone legislation. “It’s a political positive. It’s good policy and good politics,” Merkley said. “So we’re here today to say it’s way past time to get the SAFE Banking bill done.”

marijuana money
Photo by Yarygin/Getty Images

Recently, Merkley discussed the so-called “SAFE Banking Plus” bill at the Payments, Banking, and Compliance (PBC) Conference. “Every legal business deserves the same access to the same resources as any other—resources like bank accounts, loans, payment processing, and so much more,” Merkley separately said in a press release. “When it comes to cannabis, the country is changing fast and it’s long past time that our federal laws caught up.”

A Public Safety Issue

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said SAFE Banking bill “obviously is a public safety issue. It is a tax issue. It is an issue of civil justice (…) We can get this done. We will get this done. We need some more Republican cosponsors” that the congressman expects will join them soon.

RELATED: SAFE Banking, Veterans Medical Marijuana Access Approved In House As Part Of National Defense Act

“I know, in the House, that whatever they pass in the Senate, we will get passed in the House. And this will be law by the end of this year, with your help and your hard work,” Perlmutter added.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), the GOP lead on the standalone legislation called the legislation “a public safety issue—when legal Montana cannabis businesses don’t have a way to safely conduct business and are forced to operate in all cash our communities become vulnerable to crime.”

The SAFE Banking Act has passed in the House seven times but has not moved in the Senate.

What Do Minnesota’s Senators Think About This Issue?

GOP Minnesota Sen. Carla Nelson and DFL challenger Aleta Borrud debated cannabis legalization for recreational purposes, among other issues including health care, election integrity, guns and abortion.

Nelson, who has served in the Minnesota Senate since 2010, beat Borrud in a close race 50.9% to 49%, reported Yahoo News.

RELATED: Senate Rejects SAFE Act For The Sixth Time

When senators were asked if they support the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, they expressed themselves as follows:

“I absolutely do support the legalization of cannabis. Cannabis has been used for millennia, and people in our community are using it. People should not be going to jail, especially our Black and brown neighbors going to jail for using it. It becomes an issue of equity. If we legalize it, we can regulate it and improve its safety,” said Borrud.

cannabis banking money
Photo by jirkaejc/Getty Images

“I’ve heard concern from law enforcement about the packaging of gummies that are now for sale. I think we have to make sure that these are not falling into the hands of our kids.”

On the other hand, Nelson expressed that she has the endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. “And I will tell you what our public safety officials all say in this regard. Until there is a field sobriety test, it is irresponsible to legalize marijuana for the broader population,” she continued.

Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Means Social Justice

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Black Minnesotans are nearly five times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites.

“In 2021 there were 6,055 marijuana arrests in the state,” according to BCA’s latest data. Cannabis accounted for a little over one-third of all Minnesota drug arrests. “Close to 90% of marijuana arrests in Minnesota are for simple possession, rather than sales or distribution.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.


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