A Senate committee hearing on a bipartisan bill to expand banking services for legal marijuana businesses is expected this month, NBC News reports. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee is expected to hold a markup session for the SAFE Banking Act the week of Sept. 25, a key step in advancing the bill to the Senate floor. Both Republicans and Democrats support the bill and expressed confidence that it would have enough support to pass the Senate, a step Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), vowed to take as soon as this fall. “We’ve got enough votes to get it passed,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), adding that he is "cautiously optimistic we may have something before the end of the month.” The SAFE Banking Act would make it lawful for legal marijuana businesses to use major financial and banking institutions. Under current law, banks and creditors could face federal prosecution if they provide services to legal businesses selling the drug, leaving business owners unable to use banks as the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The fate of the bill in the House is less certain, despite a strong showing of support from Republicans in leadership roles, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who voted for it in previous years. Senate support for the measure has grown among Republicans, even as most of them, including Daines, oppose efforts to legalize cannabis recreationally. Senators have pointed to a rise in robberies at cash-heavy dispensaries as a reason for backing the bill. “The emphasis needs to be on safety,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “So what I really worry about is someone’s going to get murdered or robbed and severely beaten, and then we’re going to be spurred to action. And that’s the wrong way to do it, you know?” Financial institutions, including small and community banks, have pressured lawmakers to support the bill. Gallatin County, Mont., Sheriff Dan Springer, a registered Republican, lauded Daines’ efforts. “If we’re going to have businesses doing this, then let’s treat them as businesses and not as drug dealers,” he said. “If there’s cash being moved around, out at residences on the street, there’s a propensity for criminal activity,” Springer said. “I’ve had those conversations with some of the business owners about that. And it makes them nervous.”