It’s a matter of strategy but will it be the right strategy? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that he has his sights on ending cannabis prohibition rather than taking on smaller scale bills first.
That is mixed news for financial institutions and cannabis advocates who have been pressing for the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would resolve many of the banking problems cannabis-related businesses currently face. Under the current federal prohibition, many financial institutions are hesitant to work with state-regulated cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act would clarify the rules for financial institutions to engage with cannabis-related companies with a great deal less paperwork than it currently requires.
But Schumer apparently is looking at a bigger picture. He worries that passing halfway measures that clear up some problems will prevent the legislature from addressing the core issue: the descheduling of cannabis at the federal level so it’s no longer considered a Schedule 1 drug. Schumer predicts a bill will soon be introduced to finally put an end to cannabis prohibition. While the SAFE Banking Act would be a measure step, descheduling cannabis would be world-changing.
Schumer predicts that passing a bill to end cannabis prohibition would be a bipartisan effort and would require a huge push and a big campaign to make happen. When are we likely to see this bill emerge? The Majority Leader remains elusive on that point, only saying that it is coming soon.
Schumer along with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced their intentions earlier this year in collaboration with advocacy groups in order to gain feedback on how they should approach cannabis reform. One of their major concerns going into this bill is they intend to prevent the takeover of the cannabis industry by the mega-corporations that currently run the tobacco and alcohol industries.
They hope the bill they are working on will support small businesses, especially those who were most hurt by prohibition, but how they choose to do that remains to be seen.
A bill with an eye toward legalization has already been submitted in the U.S. House of Representatives. Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has brought forth a bill he also submitted last year called the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The lack of financial services has made some cannabis companies desperate. Some have considered lying to their bank in order to receive services, but lawyers strongly advise cannabis companies to be honest. There are fewer headaches in the end, even if there are temporary services provided. There are financial institutions out there willing to work with cannabis companies, even with many waiting to see how federal regulators choose to act first, so don’t give up on finding services that will work for your needs.
What bill do you think will have a chance of passing first in 2021? Schumer’s upcoming bill? The MORE Act? The SAFE Banking Act? Or another bill? Let us know in the comments below.