Top Democrats Plan Cannabis Banking Push for Lame Duck Congress

Top Senate Democrats are reportedly set to attach language from the SAFE Banking Act that would normalize the cannabis industry’s access to banking services to a “must-pass” end-of-year bill like the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Full story after the jump.

Bipartisan efforts in the lame-duck Senate are working to close out the year with significant cannabis banking reforms, Axios reports.

Headed by Senate Majority Leader Chuch Schumer (D-NY), the effort looks to combine two cannabis reform bills — the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act — and attach them to one of the year-end “must-pass” bills like the annual National Defense Authorization Act. If successful, it would be the second-ever cannabis reforms bill approved at the federal level after lawmakers passed improvements to the cannabis research process earlier this year.

As it originated, the SAFE Banking Act would allow cannabis businesses in state-legal markets to open bank accounts and acquire loans. Meanwhile, the HOPE Act would establish a Department of Justice (DOJ) grant program to help states and local governments expunge cannabis convictions.

Cannabis banking access is a popular, bipartisan issue among both elected officials and American voters but this would be the first time the Senate considers a proposal to normalize the industry’s access to financial services. The House has passed the SAFE Banking Act seven times previously but each time it ultimately failed to gain traction in the Senate.

Before Sen. Schumer would commit to the proposal, DOJ reportedly confirmed to the majority leader that the agency would be able to implement the reforms. Schumer had introduced his own cannabis reforms bill earlier this year — the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act — which sought to federally legalize cannabis and establish a national social equity program.

Meanwhile, President Biden signed into law the country’s first-ever stand-alone cannabis reforms bill last week, streamlining researchers’ ability to investigate the plant’s medicinal properties.

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