Why Do Legalizers Keep Blocking Pot Banking?

Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he supports repealing the federal prohibition on marijuana. The New York Democrat helped to sink legislation which would have eliminated federal barriers to banks services for state-licensed cannabis businesses.

Stranger still, Schumer was joined by the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports marijuana legalization. The DPA demanded that the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act) be exempted from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2022. President Joe Biden signed the act into law December 27. Maritza Perez (DPA’s national affairs director) warned that there is less than 72 hours left to prevent the SAFE Banking Act from being included in the omnibus bill. “Advocates like you must speak out immediately.”

Schumer stated that the April legalization bill which Schumer planned to introduce should take priority over any other piecemeal reforms. DPA also feared that passage of the SAFE Banking Act could ease demands for more extensive changes. It stated, “Don’t let Congress prioritize Marijuana Profits over People.”

The SAFE Banking Act, which Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D–Colo.) The SAFE Banking Act, which was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, (D-Colo.), in March 2021 would shield financial institutions who serve cannabis-related legitimate business from criminal prosecution, regulatory sanctions, and civil forfeiture. It passed the House in April 2021 by a 3-to-1 margin with support from 106 Republicans. An amendment adding it to the must-pass defense bill was approved by a voice vote in September. Schumer, however, made certain Perlmutter’s legislation wasn’t included in the final bill.

This was the fifth approval of cannabis banking legislation by the House. Its backers were disappointed at Schumer’s obstruction. “I don’t really quite know what the hell his problem is,” House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D–Mass.) In a committee meeting McGovern said that Schumer is “making it very difficult for a lot of small businesses to expand and hire more people.” McGovern said that Schumer “makes it difficult for small businesses to expand and hire more employees.”

Lack of financial services means that many cannabis businesses have to heavily rely on cash. This can increase the likelihood of theft or robbery. Perlmutter stated in a press release that “people are still being killed” and that businesses continue to be robbed due to a lack action by the Senate.

Ethan Nadelmann was the founder of the DPA and ran it for 23 years. In an interview in October, Nadelmann questioned the DPA’s current strategy. ReasonNick Gillespie is Nick. Nadelmann warns that “holding on to the incremental stuff such as safe banking” until we achieve broader legalization “may not work on Capitol Hill.”