Will there be an omnibus cannabis legalization bill enacted this year in the U.S.? According to recent discussions, anything is possible.
On the heels of a recent discussion between Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and GOP House Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) on possible bipartisan cannabis reform steps that can be taken ahead of the finalization of a comprehensive legalization bill, Marijuana Moment revealed that it has been considered much more than just banking and expungements reforms.
During a preliminary conversation that took place Thursday at an International Cannabis Bar Association conference, Schumer and Joyce discussed combining two already existing bipartisan bills — the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), and the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act. The HOPE Act, sponsored by Joyce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), would help states expunge criminal records for people with convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses by setting up a State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program.
Other important proposals such as those that cover veterans’ medical marijuana access, research expansion, cannabis industry access to Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, and broader drug sentencing, were also considered, as multiple sources told the outlet.
What’s more, those four concerns — financial services, research, medical marijuana for veterans, and expungements — are only a part of the issues being discussed. An anonymous source said a final compromise has not yet been reached and that hypothetical talks are ongoing.
Something For Everyone – SBA Loans, EQUAL Act
As for a proposal to allow marijuana companies to access SBA loans and services, pushed by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in a letter urging the appropriations committee to allow this, was also discussed. A congressional source told Marijuana Moment that Rosen spoke with Schumer about her efforts to push for the proposal.
To complicate matters and make the potential omnibus bill even more compelling to both parties, talks about a non-cannabis proposal was thrown into the mix. Namely, the EQUAL Act to eliminate the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, which has been considered to have aggravated racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The measure was already approved in the House as a standalone and has notable bipartisan support in the Senate.
“These talks are very serious,” a source involved in criminal justice reform said. “I would say this is one of the most serious bipartisan, bicameral conversations that we’ve seen occur in our time in this space.”
Perlmutter stressed the importance of the SAFE Banking Act becoming law this year. “As I’ve said before, I continue to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking signed into law this year. That effort includes ongoing conversations with senators who want to advance cannabis reforms,” Perlmutter told Marijuana Moment last Friday. “There are a number of bipartisan cannabis bills on the table, many of which could pass the Senate today if given the chance. I plan to continue working to ensure the SAFE Banking Act and/or other necessary cannabis reforms get across the finish line this year.”
Could this tactic of slipping other issues into bills that lawmakers want to pass turn the tide for cannabis legalization? Perhaps.
There is a risk of complicating any forthcoming legalization law, which is already complex as each state has its own trials and tribulations with their programs as they learn from their own and each other’s mistakes. Only time will tell.