Senate Democrats are eyeing a cannabis banking bill with bipartisan support as a potential vehicle for long-sought restorative justice measures, The Hill reports. Democrats have been pushing to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which would enable legally operating cannabis firms to use banking services, as part of a larger China competition package. The bill was included in House Democrats’ competition bill passed this year, but not in the bipartisan Senate-passed version. Supporters of the banking bill say it’s urgently needed to stop a surge of violent robberies targeting cash-only pot dispensaries. The measure, which has passed the House six times in recent years, has had trouble securing passage in the Senate due to resistance from both sides of the aisle for different reasons.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said Democrats are working to add social equity measures to the bill. Schumer has held off on bringing the banking bill to the floor amid concerns from some Democrats that its adoption could hurt chances for a more comprehensive package that offers a pathway for marijuana legalization and social justice reforms. Among measures lawmakers are eager to add is the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act. The bill would authorize $20 million to assist states and local governments in expunging minor cannabis convictions that disproportionately bar people of color from housing, jobs and education opportunities. They’re also eyeing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, which would allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, provide legal protections for veterans who use marijuana and promote research into whether marijuana could reduce opioid use among veterans.