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For a sixth time, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has been scrapped by the U.S. Senate just before earning a vote. The proposal would grant state-legal marijuana businesses access to federally insured banks.
The latest blow to the SAFE Banking Act came Thursday when senators stripped the proposal out of the America COMPETES Act, a House-passed bill that aims to subsidize computer chip manufacturers and other industries. The inclusion of the SAFE Banking Act was one of the few redeemable aspects of the COMPETES Act, which is mostly a cronyist mess of disjointed giveaways to politically connected industries.
House Democrats had included the marijuana banking provision in the otherwise unrelated bill in an attempt to finally get the SAFE Banking Act through the Senate, where it has repeatedly stalled. The most recent failure came in December when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) had the proposal stripped out of the National Defense Authorization Act. As Reason's Jacob Sullum has reported, Schumer wants to prioritize his own, broader marijuana legalization effort over what he sees as piecemeal moves like the banking reforms.
To be sure, Congress should move immediately to legalize weed. But a perfect solution seems to have become the enemy of a good solution, and state-legal pot shops and growers find themselves caught in legal limbo.
"If there is a legislative version of The Twilight Zone, the SAFE Banking Act seems to be stuck in it," says Morgan Fox, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a nonprofit that advocates for legalizing marijuana. "It is incredibly disappointing that politics continue to get in the way of saving lives and helping struggling small businesses disrupt and ultimately replace the underground cannabis market."
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