Is the gazillionth time the charm for the cannabis banking legislation known as the SAFE Act? Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives officially attached the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to the full America COMPETES Act. A final vote in the House is expected today. However, it will them move to the Senate, where the legislation often fails to proceed any further.
The amendment comes from Colorado Democrat Rep. Ed Perlmutter and was preliminarily approved on a voice vote as part of an en bloc group with other amendments on Wednesday, according to Marijuana Moment but a roll call was requested. It was then passed in a 262-168 vote. In a Tweet, Perlmutter wrote:
I have filed #SAFEBanking as an amendment to #AmericaCOMPETES b/c cannabis-related businesses – big and small – are in desperate need of access to capital & the banking system in order to operate in an efficient, safe manner & compete in the growing global cannabis marketplace
Marijuana Moment also reported that there was no floor debate about the cannabis provision itself, demonstrating how relatively noncontroversial the bipartisan-supported reform is in the House.
“The SAFE Banking Act has been sitting in the Senate for three years and with every passing day their unwillingness to deal with the issue endangers and harms businesses, their employees and communities across the country,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “My work on this bill is far from over,” he continued. “As Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer are aware, going forward, I plan to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking signed into law.”
Many in the House have blamed Senator Chuck Schumer for not advancing the SAFE Act in the Senate. Schumer has longed for a broader more comprehensive legalization effort and continually pulls the banking legislation from larger pieces of legislation. This has created an opening for Republicans to court cannabis advocates. Even proponent of the “Big Lie” Rep. Mace found herself getting lots of attention from cannabis industry executives for a bill she proposed. Credibility was apparently not an issue for these executives that fawned over Mace, even though her freshman status made it unlikely she could get any legislation approved.
While Washington debates easing banking rules for the current legal businesses, states continue to move ahead. This week Mississippi became the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana. On Wednesday Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act. The bill known as S.B. 2095 was originally approved in January by the state Legislature. Voters had approved of legalizing medical marijuana as a ballot issue, but then the state Supreme Court struck it down on a technicality pushing the issue to legislators. The Governor wasn’t a big fan of the law saying on Twitter:
The “medical marijuana bill” has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last 3+ years. There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings.
My goal from Day 1 (post Supreme Court ruling) has been to allow for the former and do everything in my power to minimize and mitigate – though knowing it is impossible to eliminate – the likelihood of the latter. After all, the overwhelming majority voted for a medical marijuana program in the 2019 election and I committed to supporting the will of the people.
I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written. But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal. Just a small sampling of the improvements we fought to include in the final version of the bill:
1. Reduces the total amount that any one individual can receive to 3 oz. per month. This one change will reduce the total amount by 40% from the original version (I asked for 50%). Said differently, there will be hundreds of millions of fewer joints on the streets because of this improvement.
2. The medical professional can only prescribe within the scope of his/her practice. And they have to have a relationship with the patient. And it requires an in-person visit by the patient to the medical professional.
3. Only an MD or DO can prescribe for kids under 18 and only with the consent of a parent/legal guardian.
4. An MD or DO must prescribe for young adults between the ages of 18-25.
5. The MSDH will promulgate rules regarding packaging and advertising, and I have confidence they will do so in a way that limits the impact on our young people.
6. Prohibits any incentives for the Industry from the Mississippi Development Authority.
7. Protects our churches and schools from having a marijuana dispensary within fewer than 1,000 feet of their location.
Because of these improvements to the program (as well as many other small ones that I am not mentioning), SB2095 will become law. I thank all of the legislators for their efforts on these improvements and all of their hard work. I am most grateful to all of you: Mississippians who made your voice heard.
Now, hopefully, we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state.