Step by Step Towards Legalization, Congress Should Pass SAFE Banking Act

Yes, it’s way past time that cannabis be legalized. Science and common sense as swept Reefer Madness into the dustbin of history. A supermajority of Americans support ending prohibition and view legalization as inevitable. Vice President Kamala Harris co-sponsored the MORE Act last year. And the new Senate Democratic Majority is on the record supporting the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and just included cannabis reform as a part of his racial and economic justice policy platform. Momentum is clearly behind the cannabis community and there has never been a better time for federal drug policy reformers.

However, political momentum is about to crash into political reality once again. There’s a saying in baseball that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. The baseball cliche means that a team can be on a great winning streak, but a fantastic game by the opposing team’s pitcher or a bad game by their own pitcher, can cause them to lose the next game. Previously, Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate was an immovable object that could stifle both legislation introduced in the Senate, even if supported by fellow Republicans, and reforms passed by the House. Now, McConnell is in the minority, but the filibuster, the hotly debated Senate rule that allows any senator to force legislation to need 60 votes to pass, instead of a simple majority. With a 50-50 Senate, it seems likely that full legalization, whether it’s the STATES Act or the MORE Act will be filibustered and have a difficult time garnering 60 votes.

Where should cannabis reformers look to continue the momentum over the next two years? The SAFE Banking Act. Allowing state-regulated cannabis businesses to utilize banking services will be huge for the industry, especially for craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. Small businesses and mom and pops are at a huge disadvantage compared to multinational corporations without arbitrary banking regulations and fees, let alone being prohibited from banking and loans with most financial institutions.

Forbes, reporting on potential cannabis reforms over the next two years:

In addition to the STATES and MORE Acts, another notable pro-cannabis measure that has been languishing in the Senate since its passage in the House of Representatives has been the SAFE Banking Act, which allows banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis companies without fear of prosecution. This is a critical piece of legislation, which if passed, would be a watershed as many cannabis businesses are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises because of the federal illegality.

Fighting for legalization can be maddening at times, when it is so obvious that the war on cannabis is a terrible failure, but we must be realistic and not be discouraged to continue what has worked for us thus far: positive change step by step. Oregon first decriminalized in 1973, California passed medical in 1996, and then Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012. Success begets success. Passing the SAFE Banking Act will help out cannabis businesses and improve public safety and it will be a prudent next step to build upon as we march towards true freedom and equality for the cannabis community.

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