A bipartisan marijuana banking bill that’s scheduled for a Senate committee markup next week has been revised in several key ways—primarily related to federal financial regulations, guidance and reporting requirements—according to full text of the the most recent version of the legislation that was obtained by Marijuana Moment on Tuesday.
The newly amended Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act hasn’t been formally filed yet. But following weeks of negotiations, senators have finally reached a deal. This is the latest version of the legislation, differing from an iteration reported by Politico earlier on Tuesday.
The bill, which is set to receive a vote in the Senate Banking Committee on September 27, has been a central focus for advocates and stakeholders this session. It’s being sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT), along with seven other listed original cosponsors.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) applauded the revised measure on Tuesday, saying he intends to “bring this legislation to the floor with all due speed.”
Marijuana Moment received the full bill text shortly after a section-by-section summary of the measure was first published by Politico earlier on Tuesday.
The full bill text reveals the types of compromises senators appear to have made in order to bolster bipartisan buy-in. Most of the new provisions are described under Section 10—a component of the reform that Republicans have strongly favored and certain Democrats opposed over concerns it could undermine broader banking regulations.
Here are some of the key changes:
In Section 7, the SAFER Banking Act omits earlier language preventing federal regulators from taking action that “discourages” financial institutions from working with state-legal marijuana businesses.
However, Section 10 of the bill now spells out how regulators must broadly have a “valid” reason for requesting or requiring the termination of bank accounts for any business.
It was revised to give the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) one year, rather than 180 days, to develop guidance for financial institutions serving state-licensed marijuana businesses.
The original bill said that income derived from state-legal cannabis business activity couldn’t be used to deny “federally backed mortgages.” That’s been revised to say that standard applies to a “covered” mortgage. A new example of such a covered mortgage is one that’s “acquired or purchased by a Federal Home Loan Bank or pledged as collateral for an advance from a Federal Home Loan Bank.”
Section 10 has been expanded, for example to include a “sense of Congress” language stipulating that the personal and political beliefs of financial regulators should not influence their decisionmaking.
The legislation would newly require federal banking regulators to work with state banking supervisors and the secretaries of commerce and treasury and, within two years of enactment, form rules or guidance to increase access to deposit accounts for businesses and customers and to enable banks and credit unions to more effectively maintain customer relationships—especially for those in rural, low-and moderate-income areas, Tribal communities and unbanked businesses and consumers.
There’s a new requirement for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to conduct a biennial survey and report to identify barriers to accessing deposit accounts for small-and medium-sized businesses.
Further, the bill has been revised to include explicit mention of tribal communities in Section 11, which requires federal regulators to submit a report to Congress on access to banking for historically underbanked communities. Tribes are now listed beside minorities, veterans, women and small state-sanctioned cannabis businesses as subjects of that report—which is not the case in the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act as introduced.
While required reports on data concerning small and minority-, veteran- and women-owned businesses are still in the bill, the phrase “diversity and inclusion” has been removed from the relevant section titles.
The version of the legislation that Politico reported on is in the format of an amendment in the nature of a substitute to the originally introduced SAFE Banking Act, whereas the document Marijuana Moment obtained is a new standalone piece of legislation titled the SAFER Banking Act. It is not clear how next week’s markup will unfold procedurally, in terms of whether members will vote on the new bill that will presumably be formally filed in the coming days or if they will instead move to amend the previously introduced measure with the substitute text.
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
All told, it appears that the proposed revisions could satisfy both sides of the aisle, with Section 10 kept “intact,” as Banking Committee member Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said this week, but also with new provisions to promote equity in the financial system.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who also serves on the Banking Committee and previously raised concerns about Section 10, has also said that senators “talked extensively” about the language, “and we’ve made some progress.”
“I think we’ve resolved most of the issues we had—and I hope we have so we can get it out of the committee with a strong vote,” he said.
Meanwhile, Schumer and others have also discussed plans to amend the legislation on the floor to adopt “critical” criminal justice provisions such as expungements for prior marijuana convictions, calling broader effort to repair the harms of the drug war a “moral responsibility” for Congress.
A spokesperson Daines told Marijuana Moment in July that he is “open” to including the additional reform provision, even as he’s cautioned Democrats against significantly expanding the bill’s scope in a way that could jeopardize GOP support. As a standalone in its current form, insiders say the measure has enough Republican buy-in to reach the 60-vote threshold needed for passage in the Senate.
On Tuesday, a coalition of 35 cannabis trade associations, drug policy reform groups and a top national labor union called on Congress to help address the “humanitarian toll” of robberies targeting cash-intensive marijuana businesses by passing the SAFE Banking Act “this year.”
The American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH)—along with trade groups representing marijuana businesses in 16 states plus Washington, D.C.—also sent a letter to Brown and Banking Committee Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) in July, imploring them to pass the cannabis banking bill “without further delay.”
Also, the American Bankers Association (ABA) also renewed its call for the passage of the legislation. And all 50 of its state chapters did the same, as did insurance and union organizations, in recent letters to congressional leadership.
July also marked the 10-year anniversary since the introduction of the first version of what is now known as the SAFE Banking Act.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) separately said in a recent letter to President Joe Biden that he should throw his support behind the congressional push for marijuana banking reform as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) begins its review of cannabis scheduling after receiving a rescheduling recommendation from the top federal health agency.
Read the full text of the newly revised SAFER Banking Act below:
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
Read MoreMarijuana Moment