House Democrats put cannabis banking in COVID relief bill — again

Sep 29, 2020

While all of Washington is now squarely focused on the president’s tax returns and the upcoming presidential debate, the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the nation. Cases are on the rise, the national death toll has crossed 200,000, and the economy continues to dip closer to a recession by the day. 

Meanwhile, most of Congress has abandoned all thought of a second stimulus package to help out those Americans in need during these unprecedented times. Still, some in the House are making an effort.

According to a statement released by NORML earlier today, the House is continuing to work on a COVID relief bill that includes marijuana banking provisions. The cannabis activist group noted that representatives in Congress want to allow licensed marijuana businesses to use banks and other financial institutions.

The new stimulus updates The HEROES Act, which was previously passed by the House in May. It includes the SAFE Banking Act.

According to NORML, should the House pass this new bill, it would be the third time they will pass cannabis banking legislation. They first passed the SAFE Banking Act as a stand-alone piece of legislation and then included it in the HEROES Act.

“The inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act in the HEROES 2.0 package is a positive development,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in a statement. “In the majority of states that regulate the marijuana marketplace, cannabis businesses have been deemed essential during this pandemic. Unfortunately, at the federal level, prohibition compounds the problems that this emerging industry faces. Small cannabis businesses in particular are facing tough economic times and access to traditional financial tools will help ensure that they can weather this pandemic.” 

He added: “Without access to much needed capital to maintain throughout the crisis, it is possible that we could see an acceleration of the corporatization of the cannabis industry in a manner that is inconsistent with the values and desires of many within the cannabis space. Enactment of the SAFE Banking Act would ensure that small businesses could compete in this emerging marketplace.”

Marijuana Business Daily reports that as of right now, even if the House passes the bill, it’s unclear if the Senate will take it up. Currently, the Senate is focused on pushing through President Trump’s new Supreme Court replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hoping to tilt the balance of power on the court.

The last time Democrats tried to pass cannabis banking in a COVID stimulus bill, Republicans turned it into a talking point, using it as part of a barrage of efforts to derail the bill. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t said anything as of yet about the new bill, there’s little reason to think Republicans would act any differently this time around.

The cannabis issue has been a bit toxic recently in the halls of Congress. Democrats in the House had planned to vote on a federal legalization bill earlier this month but backed down when Republicans, once again, used it as a talking point against them.

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