Nov 18, 2023 10:36 PM IST
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks a federal legalization of marijuana might be a reality in the near future due to the SAFER Act, which would reduce the risks to businesses in the cannabis industry.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks a federal legalisation of marijuana might be a reality in the near future due to the SAFER Act, which would reduce the risks to businesses in the cannabis industry.
It would provide the industry with access to banking services- something that has been evasive since states first began to legalize recreational marijuana more than a decade ago.
“Its time has come. The people are on our side,” told Chuck to Yahoo News in an interview. He added that public support for recreational cannabis has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, which was recently evidenced in Ohio as well. The traditional Republican stronghold voted to legalize recreational marijuana last week, becoming the 24th state to do so.
Additionally, he thinks the SAFER Banking Act is a boom for the cannabis industry. The Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act, or SAFER Banking Act, was passed by a bipartisan majority in the Senate Banking Committee in late September. It would allow financial institutions to shell out more small business loans while also providing legal protection to banks that work with cannabis retailers.
Previous versions of the bill were approved seven times by the House but were not able to get the sixty votes required to pass the Senate. Now Chuck claims that “as soon as we have those 10 or 11 Republican votes” required, he would bring the current bill—which was reintroduced in September—to the Senate floor, but he did not provide a timeframe.
Proponents of the act advocate that if passed it will ensure public safety by reducing the amount of burglaries that have increasingly haunted the ‘cash-heavy’ cannabis business.
“Forcing legal businesses to operate in all cash is dangerous for our communities. The only people benefiting from the current system are criminals,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, lead sponsor of the bill.
Al Harrington, CEO and co-founder of Biola Brands, one of the largest Black-owned cannabis brands shard his views on the bill. “This will give us a true opportunity. This industry needs cash … especially when you talk about Black-owned businesses and small minority-owned businesses that are trying to compete with some of these bigger companies that have multiple millions, and even billions of dollars, invested. It’s very difficult if you don’t have access to the capital.”
After naming his business after his grandmother—whose crippling glaucoma was only alleviated when she tried cannabis—the former basketball player has been a prominent proponent of changing marijuana regulations since he founded it in 2011.
“Fifteen years ago, before marijuana was legalized anywhere, people said, ‘Oh, there’ll be a lot more crime’, ‘People will become much more addicted’. Guess what? None of that happened,” said Chuck, advocating his point further.
A 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, a human rights and racial justice-focused nonprofit, found that 43% of drug arrests in 2018 were for charges relating to the possession and sale of marijuana. The point of interest in this is the fact that though both black and white Americans use the drug equally, black Americans are nearly 4 times more likely to be arrested for the same than the latter.
Additionally, entrepreneurs like Al are very few. Black cannabis entrepreneurs make up less than 2% if the overall industry. Most struggle to secure the thousands of dollars required to compete for licenses, rent and product.
“The bill tries to rectify some of these injustices. There’s so much that this bill could do” Chuck concluded.