Eleventh-Hour Lobbying Push for SAFE Banking Under Way

SAFE has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives seven times, but stalled in the Senate.

The clock is ticking on the current Congressional session, with the 535-member body set to adjourn for the two-year cycle on Jan. 3. With that, the fate of the SAFE Banking Act is still very much up in the air, with no solid intel about exactly what will happen to the measure.

But last-minute lobbying efforts by some stakeholders have begun in earnest. The Independent Community Bankers of America this week pleaded with Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a letter to bring SAFE Banking to the Senate floor for an up-and-down vote.

“We write to ask you to schedule floor consideration of the SAFE Banking Act before year-end 2022 as a stand-alone bill or an amendment to another bill,” the association wrote to Schumer. “This legislation enjoys strong, bipartisan support, would resolve a conflict between state and federal law, and addresses a critical public safety concern. We urge its enactment without further delay.”

SAFE has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives seven times, but stalled in the Senate, where there was opposition from some Democrats as well as Republicans.

But it’s unclear whether there’s time left in the year – or the political will – to get the measure across the finish line, several sources told Green Market Report. One source, when asked for SAFE’s chances in the lame duck session, said the bill is “dead as a doornail.”

Others, however, expressed optimism that Democrats may be able to find a vehicle for it, either by itself or as an amendment to a larger bill, which has been attempted by advocates in the past. Some industry experts predicted during MJBizCon in Las Vegas earlier this month, for instance, that SAFE has a “95% chance” of passing this year.

Recently there’s also been a push by other stakeholders to amend the SAFE Banking Act, because they contend it won’t make much difference for smaller businesses and minority-owned cannabis companies that face systemic discrimination in the U.S. financial sector.

That’s led to discussions about “SAFE Plus” language, a common reference to an updated version of the bill, but so far a new version of the bill has yet to be formally introduced.

All of this adds up to one simple conclusion: No one knows what will happen with the SAFE Banking Act, especially not in this year’s lame duck session. Anyone trying to read the political tea leaves could find either reason for hope or reason for pessimism, including the fact that Congress just recently approved its first major cannabis reform bill ever.

That victory could be interpreted by observers as a first step of several when it comes to marijuana issues, or it could be political lip service from Congressional Democrats to the cannabis lobby, with lawmakers now content to rest on that single success.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a flurry of lobbying activity in the next five weeks before Congress goes on break. The bankers’ letter could prove just the first in several such pushes.

John Schroyer


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