The political climate is divisive as ever as the Senate Minority Leader ramped up verbal attacks directed at cannabis banking reform.
On February 7, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) slammed the Democrat majority in the House for voting to include the SAFE Banking Act in a broad spending bill. McConnell called the SAFE Banking Act, the provision that allows for cannabis banking, a “poison pill.”
On February 4, the majority of the members in the House of Representatives voted to approve The America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (America COMPETES Act), which includes the provisions of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
The COMPETES Act is intended, in part, to help the U.S. compete with China—which in 2021 surpassed the US as the world’s richest nation, thanks to semiconductor manufacturing and education.
This occasion marks the sixth time that the House advanced the SAFE Banking Act to the Senate either as an amendment or as a stand-alone bill. The Act was introduced as an amendment by the bill’s sponsor, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), to allow banks and other financial institutions to cater to state-legal cannabis businesses.
“China has been steadily building up its military and economic might, and the Democrats’ answer is to help Americans get high,” McConnell said in a condescending tone, while giving remarks today on the Senate floor concerning China.
“Democrats plan to combat [opioid overdoses] is more marijuana on the side,” he said on the Senate floor. “Needless to say, this is not a winning strategy for global competition between great powers.”
“Any Democrats hoping to yank the bill to the far left, or insert poison pills, are badly, badly mistaken,” McConnell said. That statement isn’t correct, because the issue of cannabis isn’t exactly part of an agenda—it’s a bipartisan issue, according to recent polling data compiled by Rasmussen Reports. The majority of both Democrats and Republicans now support legalizing cannabis, let alone banking for cannabis businesses.
Organizations such as the U.S. Cannabis Council are not allowing McConnell to dismiss cannabis reform in that manner—especially not critical legislation like the SAFE Banking Act. That’s because in the meantime, strings of robberies plague dispensaries, simply because they are forced to deal in cash.
“Cannabis isn’t a punchline,” U.S. Cannabis Council CEO Steven Hawkins said in a statement obtained by High Times. “It’s a rapidly growing industry that supports over 300,000 American jobs and is on track to reach $30 billion in revenue this year. Cannabis is agriculture, technology, finance, science, medicine, and yes, recreation.
“What’s more, the SAFE Banking Act isn’t about Americans getting high. It’s about public safety and fairness. It’s about providing basic banking services to small, minority and veteran-owned businesses and not forcing a multi-billion dollar industry to conduct business entirely in cash.
“Thirty-seven states, and growing, have regulated cannabis businesses. Subjecting this rapidly-growing industry to unfair banking restrictions absolutely makes America less competitive, and less safe.
“We are encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for the SAFE Banking Act in both chambers. We look forward to substantively engaging Congressional leaders from both parties on its merits and are optimistic that it will pass this session.”
Senate Minority Leader McConnell isn’t the only top leader stalling cannabis reform, according to Senator Perlmutter. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), he says, insists that federal legalization should address social equity before being considered. The supermajority of Americans now support cannabis reform, and leaders should take note.