Congressional leaders have removed a key cannabis banking measure from their China competition bill, dealing a blow to marijuana advocates who pushed for its inclusion.
The SAFE Banking Act, which would allow legally operating cannabis businesses to access banking services, was included in House Democrats’ COMPETES Act but not the Senate’s bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed last year.
The bill’s supporters said Thursday that lawmakers are endangering cannabis workers by failing to overhaul the current system, which forces most dispensaries to use cash, making them top targets for robberies.
“In the wake of the Senate’s inaction, people continue to be killed, businesses continue to be robbed, and employees and business owners in the cannabis industry continue to be excluded from the financial system,” Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement
Punchbowl News first reported the development, noting that GOP negotiators demanded the provision be removed from the China competition package, which would provide $52 billion in subsidies to boost domestic semiconductor production. Lawmakers in a conference committee are working on a compromise bill that could win 60 Senate votes.
The decision isn’t surprising, as Republican leaders argued that the cannabis bill didn’t fit with other measures in the China competitiveness package, and prominent Democrats want to pair the banking bill with social justice measures, something that can’t be done in the conference committee.
Supporters will now aim to get the cannabis banking bill, which has passed the House several times with broad bipartisan support, included in another spending package.
Cannabis lobbying groups have warned Democrats that they cannot afford to enter the midterms without having passed any marijuana reforms.
“The support and political will is there to get the SAFE Banking Act across the finish line. We are encouraged by conversations about pairing the bill with other helpful cannabis and criminal justice reforms,” Steven Hawkins, president of the U.S. Cannabis Council, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our members and allies to help get the job done.”