U.S. Mayors Call on Congress to Pass Cannabis Reform

This week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors – which represents the 1,400 U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more – passed a resolution urging Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act of 2021, the MORE Act and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which has yet to be formally introduced.

The House of Representatives has passed both the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act and the MORE Act at least six times in recent years but the Senate has yet to take these bills to a vote. Per the resolution, the SAFE Banking Act would “provide financial security for cannabis dispensaries and related companies and enhance public safety” while the MORE Act and/or the CAOA would “legaliz[e] the medicinal use of cannabis and the adult use of recreational cannabis.”

The U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution cited many reasons for its position, including the broad legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in many U.S. states, the conflict between various state laws and federal law, and the lack of access to banking and insurance services for cannabis companies which forces them to operate on a cash-only basis, making them targets for criminal activity. The resolution also cited recent testimony before a Senate committee from representatives from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) that one in every two cannabis dispensaries has been robbed or burglarized, with the total value of stolen goods in a single theft totaling on average between $20,000 and $50,000.

There has been a recent push in Congress to attach the SAFE Banking Act to the America COMPETES Act of 2022, on which the House and Senate are currently in conference to reach an agreement on their respective versions. The COMPETES Act would “accelerate U.S. production of critical semiconductor chips, strengthen the supply chain to make more goods in America, turbocharge our research capacity to lead the technologies of the future, and advance our global competitiveness, while supporting strong labor standards and human rights, among other key provisions.”

While Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is optimistic that lawmakers will reach an agreement to add SAFE Banking to the America COMPETES Act, an aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently expressed skepticism that attaching it would be successful given Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) opposition to it. Sen. Schumer has repeatedly said that rather than passing piecemeal cannabis reform such as SAFE Banking, he plans to introduce a more comprehensive bill that would not only permit cannabis companies to access the banking system but would legalize and decriminalize recreational cannabis with an eye toward supporting communities that have been most impacted by the war on drugs. However, he and his colleagues Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have yet to formally introduce the bill and have promised to do so by August of this year.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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