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SAFE Legislation Remains In Limbo

December 16, 2022

The SAFE Banking Act faces one of its last chances to become law this year as legislators decide whether to include it in the omnibus spending bill set to be introduced in the coming days. SAFE Banking is a long-gestating piece of legislation that would open the cannabis industry to financial services like national banks and outside investment.

A broader package referred to as SAFE Plus has also taken shape in recent months behind majority leader Chuck Schumer—it would expand the focus to include various reparative measures like conviction expungement. Failing to get it on the Senate floor on its own, Democrats have attempted to attach it to various larger, must-pass bills, but it has repeatedly been removed from the final text.

That happened most recently last week when cannabis legislation was not included in the National Defense Authorization Act military spending bill, setting up the appropriations bill as perhaps its last shot this congressional session. Whether it will be included is so far unknown, and there have been conflicting signals from various parties: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Leahy said that Democrats have removed the “poison pill” riders that Republicans opposed, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would apply the lesson of its removal from the defense bill to the spending bill.

Meanwhile, SAFE sponsor Jeff Merkley vowed again to pass the law this year and several Republican state senators from Pennsylvania urged their senator Pat Toomey to include SAFE Banking, citing the unacceptable consequences of cash operations for their state’s medical dispensaries.

SAFE Banking’s status in the spending bill remains unknown but support for the bill continues to grow and its eventual passage feels more and more inevitable.—Danny Sullivan

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