The SAFE Banking Act is dead. For now.
Though many in the cannabis trade are understandably frustrated – particularly given how much hope there was the past two years that Congress had finally reached a tipping point on marijuana – it’s worth remembering that almost nothing in Washington, D.C. happens overnight.
It’s usually the opposite. That’s been particularly true in the past decade, which has seen Congress devolve into arguably the most partisan and fractured landscape in modern history, in which annual standoffs over the federal budget have become mainstays.
The reason for hope on SAFE Banking is both obvious and irritating: It’s inevitable.
That’s plain just by looking at the national map of how many states have legalized cannabis, and thus have stakeholders who are complaining to their senators and representatives about the inequities they labor under due to the federal illegality of cannabis.
And marijuana reform is perhaps one of the only truly nonpartisan topics in the capitol – the SAFE Banking Act itself is a prime example. The House version of the bill has 26 Republican co-sponsors out of the 180 representatives that championed the bill, and the Senate version has nine GOP co-sponsors accompanying the 31 Democratic sponsors.
Not only that, but the issue is a generational one, with younger Republicans such as Reps. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina), Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), and Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) openly pushing cannabis legislation, while it’s largely the older lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that tend to shy away from the issue.
In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has already pledged to “go back at it next year” with SAFE.
While Schumer may have lost some credibility in cannabis circles this year with his failure to advance his own marijuana legalization bill, he’s far from the only senator who wants to see cannabis reform become a reality.
Incoming Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman, for instance, campaigned hard on federal cannabis legalization this election season, and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon have also both made cannabis reform a major priority.
On top of that, Congress just this year approved – and President Joe Biden signed into law – its first marijuana reform bill since cannabis was federally banned: The Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.
So industry insiders can choose whichever metaphor they like – the toothpaste is out of the tube, the genie is out of the bottle – but the bottom line is that cannabis prohibition is over. The question is only when Congress will get its act together. Not if.