TDR Exclusive: Republican and Democrat Senators’ Views on SAFE Banking

The TDR Three Key Takeaways on the SAFE Banking Act:

  1. TDR’s Shadd Dales has live interviews in Washington DC with senators on their views of the SAFE Banking Act
  2. Senators believe economic and safety benefits underscore the urgent need for the SAFE Banking Act. 
  3. Senators believe strategic legislative tactics may determine the SAFE Banking Act’s passage in an election year.

Last week, the TDR team was in Washington, DC, to gather firsthand insights for this exclusive to learn directly about both Republican and Democrat senators’ views on SAFE Banking. We thank Cannabis Lobbyist Don Murphy for his assistance in arranging interviews. TDR’s Shadd Dales interviewed current and former senators from both parties, such as JD Vance, Steve Daines, Rand Paul, Robert Menendez, and Cory Gardner. Below are direct quotes and highlights from the podcast, available for viewing at the link below.

Senator JD Vance, Ohio, Republican

Senator JD Vance voted against the Safe Banking Act due to concerns that it could inadvertently aid illicit activities, as he noted, “the bill was crafted in such a way that actually would have opened up access to banking resources for fentanyl traffickers and others.”

Regarding supporting a revised version of the legislation, Vance indicated openness to changing his stance if improvements were made, saying, “if the legislation is better, I’d be more likely to support it.”

As for his view on the rescheduling of marijuana, Vance seemed less focused on this issue, mentioning that it was not his “particular focus” and suggested that the influence on legislative momentum might differ among his colleagues. He also questioned the priority of such changes in the House, implying it might face challenges there.

It appears that his view on the SAFE Banking Act may be shifting in a positive direction.

Image: Shadd Dales and Senator JD Vance, Ohio, Republican

Senator Steve Daines, Montana, Republican

Senator Steve Daines articulated a few key messages regarding the progress and potential passage of the Safe Banking Act for the cannabis industry. First, he expressed cautious optimism about the legislation’s prospects, noting, “I think we’re at the best spot we’ve ever been in getting safe banking across the finish line.” He acknowledged the unpredictability of Washington but seemed hopeful about the current alignment between the House and Senate bills. Regarding the strategy to advance the bill, he shared the approach of attaching the Safe Banking Act to other legislative vehicles as a way to navigate the complexities of an election year: “We’re going to look at vehicles we can get the safe banking bill attached to. We’ve got some ideas on working with our House.” Why as a Republican Senator is he so supportive of the Safe Banking Act? Daines emphasized the public safety aspect of the legislation, tying it to the protection of businesses that are currently operating in cash and are vulnerable to crime. He also pointed out the broader benefits such as support from law enforcement and the potential for increased tax revenues: “This is about public safety…That’s why we’ve got the support of so many law enforcement agencies around the country to do the right thing, not to mention for tax revenues, to be able to bank a business that’s legal in so many states.”

These comments reflect Daines’ supportive stance on advancing the Safe Banking Act, his strategic thinking about legislative success, and his emphasis on the public safety and economic benefits of the act.

Image: Shadd Dales and Senator Steve Daines, Montana, Republican

Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky, Republican

Senator Rand Paul provided key insights into the challenges facing the Safe Banking Act, which provide a slightly different take. Senator Paul noted the bill’s strong bipartisan support, saying it “probably has 60%, 70% support in both the House and the Senate.” However, he highlighted political challenges, particularly in the House, where it’s “less likely to come up” due to greater Democratic support, affecting its progression under a Republican majority. Discussing the difficulties in the current legislative environment, Paul explained the reluctance in the House to address the bill, stating, “The speakership is dependent on not bringing up things that the majority of Republicans don’t want.”

Criticizing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s handling of the bill, Paul said, “Had it been brought up and had he not delayed it… he should have just brought that vote up. If it didn’t pass, then he should have moved to the Safe Banking Act.” Despite these criticisms, he said: “I’m still supportive of it and continue to try and I’ve worked with Schumer on it.”

Image: Shadd Dales and Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky, Republican

Senator Robert Menendez, New Jersey, Democrat

Senator Bob Menendez shared why the Safe Banking Act to him was important with a  focus on the need for legislative progress and addressing industry challenges. Menendez emphasizing the irrational current banking restrictions: “I’m a supporter and one of the sponsors of the Safe Banking Act…there’s more cash that can’t be actually banked, which makes no sense in terms of businesses, no sense in terms of security, transparency, and all of the benefits that can flow from the industry.” Highlighting operational problems, Menendez pointed out, “You have a cannabis business that’s open, it can’t get insured. That’s a huge problem.” 

Regarding the obstacles, Menendez noted the ideological and justice-related hurdles facing the bill, stating, “I don’t think we should continue to allow the cannabis industry millions and millions of dollars to go unbanked.” He supports broader justice efforts but believes they should not hinder essential banking reforms.

Image: Shadd Dales and Senator Robert Menendez, New Jersey, Democrat

Former Senator Cory Gardner, Colorado, Republican

Former Senator Cory Gardner discussed the status and potential pathways for the Safe Banking Act’s passage. Gardner expressed confidence in the bill’s potential, noting, “if you were to put safer banking on the floor as a standalone bill, it would pass with overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate.” He emphasized that its passage in the House multiple times demonstrates significant support.

Legislative timing and priorities were challenges and he explained saying, “legislative time is the coin of the realm.” Gardner highlighted competing priorities such as FAA authorization and national security legislation, which can delay the Safe Banking Act because “if somebody wants to object… it could draw the process out for weeks.”

Discussing potential pathways for the bill, Gardner suggested it might be included in larger legislative packages, either in upcoming FAA reauthorization or in a post-election lame duck session. He noted, “So I think what you see now is the negotiating process to try to figure out what we can put this in? Where can it go?”

Former Senator Cory Gardner, Colorado, Republican

In this TDR exclusive, both Republican and Democrat senators acknowledge the importance of the SAFE Banking Act, focusing on different aspects and challenges. Republican JD Vance has raised concerns about potential unintended consequences and strategic legislative opportunities. In contrast, Republican Steve Daines focused on the safety aspects, which he views as crucial. Democrat Robert Menendez emphasized the urgent need to remove banking restrictions that currently limit the operational and security capabilities of a marijuana businesses. The bipartisan support mentioned by Rand Paul, along with Cory Gardner’s confidence in the potential passage of the act, demonstrates a shared recognition of the economic and public safety benefits of allowing legal marijuana businesses banking access. These discussions indicate that the legislative environment is adapting to balance political, economic, and safety considerations, suggesting a shift towards a more unified approach in managing cannabis-related banking reforms. Returning from Washington, we are now better prepared to provide our viewers with firsthand information on this significant development.

If you found this article and podcast informative, consider watching our recent interview with Congresswoman Nancy Mace from South Carolina, a Republican who supports the Safe Banking Act and the rescheduling of marijuana. The interview is available at the link below. Want to keep up to date with all of TDR’s research and news, subscribe to our daily Baked In newsletter.

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