Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-OH, doesn’t yet support the House-passed cannabis banking bill, and doesn’t plan to consider it any time soon, he said Wednesday, according to Cleveland.com.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act passed Monday by a 321-101 vote, while a Senate version of the bill was introduced last month. Brown reiterated his desire Wednesday for the measure to be accompanied by broader reform.
"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," Brown said. "I will look at this seriously. We’re not ready to move on it."
Republicans have historically been the holdouts when it comes to backing cannabis legislation in Congress.
With Democrats now in control of the Senate, SAFE Banking proponents are optimistic the bill could become law this year.
The push among some party leaders to include more comprehensive cannabis reform alongside banking legislation, however, could be a roadblock to the bill’s advancement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said he doesn’t think it’s wise for the Senate to pass SAFE Banking before taking on more comprehensive reform, adding the bill could hinder efforts to get support for the broader legalization legislation he’s working on, according to Marijuana Moment.
Brown said he is discussing the issue with Schumer "and will see where it goes," according to Cleveland.com.
The SAFE Banking Act, which would provide protections to financial institutions that offer services to marijuana-related businesses, has been introduced every Congress since 2013 by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-CO.
Banks have largely shied away from servicing marijuana-related businesses because of cannabis’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug. As a result, many such businesses deal primarily in cash, making them targets of theft, cannabis reform advocates have said.
The SAFE Banking Act passed in the House in 2019, only to stall in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. House Democrats tried to fold the legislation into two coronavirus relief measures proposed by the House, but the language was not included in the bill President Joe Biden signed last month.
While Perlmutter has expressed confidence SAFE Banking will pass this year, he said he would also support broadening the bill with criminal justice reform to garner more support from Senate Democrats.
"Make it a bigger bill," he told KOA News Radio on Wednesday. "Do whatever. Just do something."