24 senators press leaders to stick with cannabis banking bill

Nearly a quarter of the Senate is pushing their leadership to include language that would make it easier for banks to do business with cannabis companies as lawmakers negotiate a China competitiveness bill.

In a letter organized by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who both hail from states where cannabis is legal, 24 Republicans and Democrats urged that the SAFE Banking Act remain “in the final conferenced version” of the China bill, this year’s America COMPETES Act.

Who signed? Among the signatories are Republicans Steve Daines (Mont.) (who is also a lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski . One independent and 18 Democrats signed the letter, including Patty Murray (Wash.), the 3rd-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

What’s the context? The SAFE Act has passed the House six times, but never progressed out of committee in the Senate. Still, the vibe is shifting on Capitol Hill regarding cannabis legislation, as senators like Murray react to an increase in violent break-ins targeting cannabis companies in their home states and as lawmakers continue to wait for Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to formally introduce their comprehensive cannabis descheduling and regulation bill. Merkley said recently there is “growing momentum and interest” around the SAFE Banking Act, though Democrats predominantly want the bill to be paired with social equity or criminal justice provisions. Republicans, meanwhile, say adding such provisions would be a dealbreaker.

While Democrats and Republicans are split on the “extras” that could come with the bill, the new letter signals that they are still unified on the passage of banking measures.

“The bill’s list of co-sponsors is also bipartisan in both the House and the Senate,” the letter points out. “Given the demonstrated broad support for this measure, we ask you to ensure that the text of the SAFE Banking Act remain in the forthcoming final conferenced version of the jobs and competitiveness bill.”