(Bloomberg) -- The Senate Banking Committee has scheduled marijuana banking legislation for a vote on Sept. 27, a much-anticipated move that would advance one of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s top priorities to the Senate floor.
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The bipartisan SAFE Banking Act sponsored by Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon has bipartisan support, including from the lead Republican sponsor, Steve Daines of Montana, who heads his party’s campaign committee. Backers of the legislation have been increasingly optimistic they will easily exceed the 60 votes needed to pass it.
Schumer has repeatedly expressed his aspiration of advancing the bill, which would grant state-legalized marijuana businesses access to financial services. Advocates say it will improve safety because marijuana businesses now often rely on using cash, which can attract criminals.
Hundreds of institutions including state-chartered banks and credit unions do serve the industry. The SAFE banking legislation could allow bigger institutions to get more comfortable with it.
The measure falls short of a broader legalization and regulation effort Schumer and other Democrats have supported, but comes as Biden administration health officials have recommended easing restrictions on the drug.
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Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown of Ohio pointed out recently that Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, the top Republican on the panel and a presidential candidate, has not backed the measure. It’s generally easier to pass legislation when the top members of both parties on a committee support it.
A version of the bill passed the House when Demcrats controlled the chamber with majority backing in both parties, including from Kevin McCarthy of California, now the speaker, before stalling in the Senate amid demands by progressives like Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey for broader legislation, including action for people convicted of marijuana crimes.
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