While much of the focus on cannabis law reform in 2020 will be at the state level, there could be some opportunities at the federal level for progress amid all of the craziness surrounding the Presidential Election.
The legislation that probably has the best chance of reaching the President’s desk before the slugfest in November is the SAFE Banking Act that was passed by the House last fall. Not only is it by far the most advanced in the Congress out of all cannabis legislation, it may also be much more attractive to lawmakers looking to show some progressive tendencies while avoiding going too far into the weeds (pardon the obvious pun).
The National Cannabis Industry Association is one of the groups working in the halls of Congress to make sure the SAFE Banking Act gets the attention it deserves. “As it stands, we are working with the financial sector and other stakeholders to educate the Senate about the need for this legislation and to allay the concerns expressed by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo in December,” Morgan Fox, Media Relations Director for the NCIA, told The Marijuana Times. “We are hopeful that we will get a markup in the near future and that we can convince the committee to move forward with the House-approved version. In terms of the rest of the Senate, it could be difficult to get much further progress in an election year, but my sense is that Congress needs to show the American people that it can still legislate and cooperate. The SAFE Banking Act has broad bipartisan support and would be a boon to small businesses across the country while improving public safety. I think that makes it a perfect vehicle for them to restore confidence in the legislature. It is also narrowly tailored to address existing issues, and doesn’t require lawmakers to openly support broader cannabis policy reform like descheduling.”
I know there are many in the cannabis community that wish legislation like the MORE Act would get some more attention, and in a perfect world comprehensive reform would come first, but that’s not the world we are in. We are in a world where cannabis was inexplicably made illegal for over 80 years by the very institutions that are now overseeing legalization.
Adding to the advantages of the SAFE Banking Act is the fact that it’s not just cannabis industry groups backing reform. A recent letter from the Credit Union National Association to Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) read in part: “CUNA strongly believes that federal legislation providing these protections is essential to bringing revenue from state-sanctioned cannabis entities and hemp businesses into the financial services mainstream and, as a result, keeping communities safe by removing vast amounts of cash off the streets.”
In addition, some 30+ cannabis organizations, 38 state attorneys general and a number of national and state organizations representing banks and credit unions have urged progress on cannabis banking legislation in the Senate.
It’s possible that President Trump will never see cannabis law reform legislation on his desk, but if he does this year, it will most likely be the SAFE Banking Act.