WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Federal legislation to allow marijuana companies to legally access banks is facing a crucial deadline.
Lawmakers are making a last-ditch effort to include the bill in next year’s budget, which is due by the end of the week. Some senators say they’re ready to open the door for banks to work with marijuana businesses.
“It absolutely could still happen,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said. “They have to deal in cash, that’s not good for anybody.”
Brown and a group of bipartisan lawmakers are scrambling to get the SAFE Banking Act passed before the end of the year.
He said the bill would not only help marijuana companies access things like loans, but includes grants to encourage states to expunge the records of people with marijuana-related offenses.
“I think we’re this close to a deal,” Brown said. “We’re trying to … walk that line to help those young people.”
Groups like the NAACP are endorsing the effort. In a recent op-ed, the organization said the bill would help achieve racial and economic equity.
But not everyone agrees.
Luke Niforatos with Smart Approaches to Marijuana said the bill would only create more inequality.
“Expungements are a great thing to do, we support that, but its pales in comparison to what the banks and financiers and big tobacco are going to get, which is billions of dollars,” Niforatos said. “People are still going to go to jail for this. So to me it’s a little ridiculous that we’re even having this discussion. … The marijuana industry is less than 2% Black-owned right now.”
Niforatos said he doubts any breakthrough is on the horizon.
Lawmakers have until the end of the week to decide.