Cory Booker says marijuana banking bill ‘needs change’ as regulators push equity amendments

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says a standalone marijuana bank reform bill “needs changes” if it is to move forward before cannabis is legalized federally.

The senator, who is one of three main sponsors of a recently tabled measure to end the ban altogether, did not go into detail about revisions he wants to see made to the Secure and Fair Banking Act Enforcement (SAFE) — but he said in a statement Wednesday that industry fairness for communities affected by the war on drugs must be a priority.

While Booker has made several recent comments about his openness to more progressive cannabis legislation, including protections for banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses though he previously said that he would block financial reform, his latest remarks come amid a push by current and former cannabis regulators to make a series of fairness-focused amendments to the standalone bill.

“For decades, largely black and brown communities have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and are consequently underrepresented in the emerging billion-dollar cannabis industry,” a- he said in a press release that coincided with an event organized by the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition. (CRCC), which this week released a paper on the need for SAFE Banking reviews.

“We all agree that the path to real fairness within the marijuana industry begins with the decriminalization of cannabis at the federal level,” Booker said. “Before moving forward, legislation like SAFE Banking requires changes to ensure that the communities most impacted by our violated marijuana policies receive support and that small cannabis businesses can have the same access to capital as large multi-state operators.”

The senator did not explicitly endorse any of the CRCC’s proposed amendments in the commentary he provided for the group’s event, but the regulators’ recommendations for SAFE Banking, which were adopted by the House in one form or another. another seven times now are designed to achieve this fundamental objective. greater fairness in the marijuana market.

In its paper, the CRCC called for 10 amendments, including some requiring financial institutions to prove compliance with anti-discrimination laws in order to benefit from the marijuana-specific protections offered under SAFE, requiring financial regulators to expand the best practices for “achieving racial equity”. in their services and expand federal education and reporting requirements to more comprehensively cover the financial barriers faced by women-owned, minority-owned and stock-owned cannabis businesses.

“Without additional legislative amendments to directly address challenges related to fair and equitable access to financial services, small minority-owned cannabis businesses that currently have insufficient access to banking or loans will likely continue to be denied access to financial services. “Breadth and depth of services offered to others,” the newspaper said.

Booker, along with key lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have been particularly vocal about the need for comprehensive marijuana reform — and they’ve long criticized the idea of ​​advancing the SAFE autonomous banking law as an intermediate step towards this broader objective.

But since the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was tabled last month, senators have softened their stance, expressing their willingness to reach a compromise on a passable package of marijuana reforms that has been described as “SAFE Banking More”.

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The details of this pending omnibus cannabis bill are not yet known, but it is expected to contain fairness elements like bipartisan marijuana erasure proposals – and it is conceivably that lawmakers may also push to incorporate the SAFE Banking Amendments as outlined in the new CRCC document.

Shaleen Title, co-founder of CRCC and former Massachusetts cannabis regulator, told Wednesday’s virtual event that the reason she’s bullish about SAFE Banking “for the first time” is because “legislators, their staff and the public seem to have changed their minds on this.” versus, say, six months ago,” when equity considerations were not given serious consideration in the context of the bill.

“What we’re seeing is interest in multiple avenues” to implement the kinds of reforms outlined in the group’s paper, she said. “I hope this document and these recommendations are a good starting point.”

Schumer held high-level talks with bipartisan and bicameral offices as lawmakers work to push through a package of cannabis reforms. And while the timeline isn’t clear, Booker said he expects to see progress on the yet-to-be-released proposal during the lame duck period between the November election and early April. a new Congress in January.

Booker first signaled he was coming to marijuana bank reform (subject to fairness provisions) during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing last month that he convened in as president.

Meanwhile, bicameral sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), outlined next steps for cannabis banking reform last month at a briefing organized by US Cannabis. Council (USCC).

Also during this briefing, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said he recently spoke with Booker about the path to marijuana reform during this session, and they had a “great conversation.” on finding areas of compromise.

“I think the senator is fully aware of the consequences of this failed ban policy in terms of what he is doing with the SAFE Banking Act and the threat to the very communities he wants to support,” said the congressman in response to a question from Marijuana Moment. “I think he’s trying to be able to thread the needle.”

Perlmutter also said in a recent interview that he believes the introduction of CAOA alone in the Senate means lawmakers have overcome a legislative “hurdle” that has prevented SAFE Banking from moving forward in the chamber.

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