As we previously reported, on October 6, President Biden took executive action and announced that he would issue pardons for all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, and urged state governors to do the same. As part of his executive action, Biden also directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Attorney General to “initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” which is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD.
Many observers think that this executive action could usher in cannabis banking reforms. While some have noted that if cannabis is actually de-scheduled, banks and financial institutions will feel more comfortable banking with cannabis and cannabis-related companies, it seems more likely that Biden’s pardon announcement may push Congress to finally pass some version of the SAFE Banking Act.
After Biden’s announcement, Sen. Cory Booker (D, N.J.) said he was hopeful that Congress would pass federal legislation in the lame-duck session after the November election. On that front, Booker alluded to “bipartisan movement” due to “problems in the banking industry” that many think refers to a version of “SAFE Banking Plus” or “SAFE Plus” that we previously reported senators were discussing.
The SAFE Banking Act – which has passed the House of Representatives seven times in recent years but has not been taken up in the Senate – would allow cannabis businesses to access the federal banking system and service providers to the cannabis industry such as attorneys, accountants, bankers and landlords would be permitted to accept payment from cannabis businesses without the risk of violating federal law.
“SAFE Plus” would add equity provisions to the SAFE Banking Act, ensuring equitable access to financial services for minority-owned cannabis businesses, requiring financial institutions to prove compliance with anti-discrimination laws, as well as other reforms like expungements, veterans medical cannabis access and more.