A long-running debate over reforming federal drug laws piecemeal or in more fundamental ways led to a "puzzling turn of events" in which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the reform group Drug Policy Alliance helped kill legislation aimed at promoting access to banking services for state-licensed marijuana businesses, Reason reports. The House-based version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022 included the marijuana-banking provision, the fifth time the Houston has approved such legislation. But Schumer, a latecomer to marijuana reform who now says he favors repeal of federal laws outlawing marijuana, insisted that the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021 be removed from the NDAA, a stance that DPA mobilized its followers to support.
The SAFE Banking Act addresses a problem that has plagued the cannabis industry, as states loosen and abolish laws against marijuana, putting them in conflict with federal law. That has made financial institutions reluctant to serve state-licensed growers and distributors, which in turn has hamstrung marijuana businesses as they pay bills, process payments and borrow money. The proposed legislation would protect financial institutions from regulatory blowback if they do business with marijuana licensees. DPA argued that the SAFE Banking Act didn't do enough to reform federal drug laws and urged that the Senate act instead on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which the House approved last December. Schumer reportedly wanted to see if broader legislation could pass before opting for a narrower banking bill.