In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act), providing cannabis businesses long-awaited access to federal financial institutions. While the SAFE Banking Act appeared to provide hope for cannabis-based businesses and removing marijuana from its Schedule I classification, strong opposition in the Senate currently jeopardizes the bill’s passage.
Mike Crapo, chairman of the Senate banking committee has stated his opposition to marijuana legalization within his home state of Idaho and on the federal level. Crapo is also obviously opposed to the SAFE Banking Act, stating:
“Significant concerns remain that the SAFE Banking Act does not address the high-level potency of marijuana, marketing tactics to children, lack of research on marijuana’s effects, and the need to prevent bad actors and cartels from using the banks to disguise ill-gotten cash to launder money into the financial system. I welcome input from all interested parties on how to thoughtfully address these concerns.”
The issues raised by Crapo have no simple or obvious solutions. Cannabis businesses are firmly aware of the roadblocks to enacting any kind of meaningful marijuana reform in the U.S., and that these barriers principally reside in the U.S. Senate. Although the SAFE Banking Act only applies to banking services and does nothing to alter the legalization of marijuana, the debate continues about whether marijuana is too dangerous to legalize federally. Republicans like Crapo and Mitch McConnell have proven to be hardcore adversaries with little room for progressive thought on the subject.
At first, Crapo seemed ready to push something forward last September, ready to vote and determine if the Senate could accomplish something related to the SAFE Banking Act. At that time, Crapo recognized the validity of the bill while suggesting that the bill was a work in progress. “The impact on the ability of small and large businesses to operate justifies our attention . . . we may craft our own bill or we may work with them to craft any amended legislation.”
However, the recent trend of vaping-related deaths has been a source of negative press over the past several months, thus affecting lawmakers like Crapo and making them even more reluctant to pass any marijuana-related legislation. Whatever Crapo’s reasons are, it is easy to be pessimistic that nothing will change in the Senate. After all, three months have gone by since the bill passed the House.
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