Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R-KY) applauded the coronavirus relief bill passed in Congress last week that left out language protecting banks which service state-legal cannabis businesses. Without this protective language in place, these businesses are subject to penalties from federal legislatures.
Although some industry stakeholders believe that cannabis banking legislation is imminent to advance regardless of party control in 2021, McConnell has remained staunch in his opposition to reform. His position as Senate Majority Leader allows him to determine if the cannabis banking bill makes it to the floor, should Republicans stay in power after January’s two runoff elections in the state of Georgia.
In a statement released by the McConnell camp, it stated that: “From May through December, Democrats held up bipartisan COVID relief for unrelated partisan provisions like tax cuts for wealthy residents of big spend states, federal election mandates, and marijuana studies.”
The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act would allow for required reports on “access to financial services for minority-owned and women-owned cannabis-related legitimate businesses,” of which McConnell has taken particular issue. He attacked this component of the SAFE Act in his statement, continuing his broader crusade against marijuana-focused financial service reform in COVID relief packages.
The Democratic-held House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act to protect cannabis businesses three times in 2021—twice as a part of COVID relief legislation. While McConnell continues to hold firm in his opposition to potential reform, the Senate Banking Committee could apply pressure if the bill is approved there.
Republican Pat Toomey (R-PA), who will be chair of the Senate Banking Committee if the Republicans keep control of the senate, has indicated that he would be open to advancing the SAFE Banking proposal. This could be, in part, because state leaders in Pennsylvania have been pushing for legalization of cannabis in recent months.