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SAFE Banking Act of 2019, Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

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SAFE Banking Act of 2019

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

In September, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the SAFE Banking Act, as it was finally up for a vote in the House. The bill, which passed in a decisive vote is a great step forward for the cannabis industry as it makes significant reforms at the federal level that would allow marijuana companies to access the banking system. However, before investors get too excited, let's not forget that the House vote was the easy part.

There's been a lot of support for marijuana reform from Democratic candidates vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, and so it shouldn't come as a big surprise that the Democrat-controlled House was able to pass the SAFE Banking Act. The true test will come in the Senate.

Why there could be big roadblocks ahead

Back in July, there was a hearing on banking and cannabis, and Republicans didn't even bother showing up to it.

In addition to apathy, one of the challenges the bill faces, is that there could be an opportunity for Republicans who oppose the bill to open it up to a much larger debate. Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry, of North Carolina, provided some insights into what types of discussions might occur, as he is among those opposing the bill: "If we seek to give financial institutions certainty, we should deal with the listing of cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, not debating a partial solution for financial institutions to what is a much larger problem and a larger societal issue that we must wrestle with." ***

While dealing with the much larger issue of whether marijuana should be a Schedule 1 substance is a very valid discussion to have, it is a debate that could last months and that could prevent the SAFE Banking Act from getting passed. One of the reasons marijuana advocates were hopeful about the SAFE banking bill was that it doesn't try to make any significant changes -- it simply tries to help cannabis companies have access to bank accounts, things that other businesses rarely even have to worry about and likely take for granted.

The problem is that for those opposed to the legislation, there's ample opportunity not only to vote against it but to try to open to a much larger debate that could doom the bill right from the start. - David Jagielski, Why the SAFE Banking Act Still Has a Long Way to GO, Oct 2, 2019

My 2 Cents

*** He is saying that the SAFE Banking Act does not go far enough and that it should be shelved until cannabis is de-scheduled, which would eliminate the need for the SAFE Banking ACT in the first place. He wants to stall it by saying that we should take both steps at once.

I BELIEVE THAT A STEP IN, THE ONLY DIRECTION THAT THIS IS GOING TO GO, IS A DAMN GOOD THING! Contact your State and Federal politicians today and let your feelings on the matter be known. The best way is the NORML website. - Cecil Kemp

Will the SAFE Banking Act pass the Senate and become law?

Very, very unlikely. The GOP-led Senate has, historically, been loath to consider any bill relating to marijuana. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been especially vehement in his opposition to the cannabis industry and is likely the largest roadblock (of many) standing in the way of SAFE becoming law.

"I would be shocked if Sen. McConnell wanted to spend a single second of floor time on weed,” said a veteran lobbyist in a recent Politico article. He has also blocked cannabis banking reforms as recently as 2018, describing marijuana as “…hemp’s illicit cousin which I choose not to embrace.” It goes without saying that McConnell’s power to shape any and all new legislation is unquestioned.

On the other side of the aisle, there may also be surprising opposition to SAFE from Senate democrats. A handful of progressive groups, including the ACLU and the Center for American Progress, have pushed back against the bill, stating it doesn’t do enough to help “communities who have felt the brunt of prohibition,” yet have been “shut out” of the growing industry. Instead, these groups advise congress to focus on full federal legalization in lieu of any banking reform. - Oscar Dahl, The SAFE Banking Act, POSaBIT, and the Future of Marijuana Financial Reform, October 01, 2019

Again, contact your State and Federal politicians today and let your feelings on the SAFE Banking Act be known. The best way is the NORML website. - Cecil Kemp

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