In a decisive win for the prospects of U.S. cannabis banking regulations, the Senate Banking Committee has voted to markup SAFER Banking Act legislation. A Senate committee markup vote is a crucial step in the legislative process in the United States Senate, and part of the process by which a bill or piece of legislation is considered and amended before it advances to the full Senate.
Despite a pre-vote attempt to block the vote, markup passed by a 14-9 margin in the committee. Previous to the vote taking place, the committee dismissed a proposal from Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) who had expressed concerns regarding racial equity in connection with the war on drugs. Warnock’s amendment sought to include a provision in the SAFER Banking Act that would have caused the legislation to expire after a period of five years unless concrete evidence demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing the racial wealth gap.
Additional amendments from Senators Hagerty (R-TN), Rounds (R-SD), and Crapo (R-ID) were also proposed but had varying outcomes, including being declared out of order, withdrawn, or lacking the necessary backing.
With SAFER officially marked-up and through the committee, the bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration. Once the bill reaches the Senate floor, senators may debate its merits and may undergo further amendments during this stage. If a bill has at least 60 votes in the Senate, it may avoid extensive debate by detractors to stall the bill in what is known as a filibuster.
Fortunately, there are solid indications that this is the case.
Advocates of the cannabis industry are now cautiously optimistic that the Senate will embrace the SAFER Banking Act, buoyed by its strong bipartisan support. At least seventy-six senators represent states with regulations governing the sale of cannabis for medical or adult use—including twenty-eight Republicans. SAFER Banking Act has garnered support from influential organizations such as the National Association of Attorneys General, National Association of State Treasurers, American Bankers Association, NAACP, and more.
The successful vote comes on the heels of the Department of Health and Human Services recommending reclassifying cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III in the federal Controlled Substances Act. While this change would not directly alleviate the ongoing banking challenges faced by the cannabis industry, it would act towards alleviating unfair taxation and promote normalization for the cannabis industry.
TDR will have additional coverage as SAFER works towards a full Senate debate.