In a Twitter-style Town Hall, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) responded to questions, answered critics, and reemphasized the importance of getting cannabis federally legalized before attempting to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
“I’m telling you right now, if somebody tries in the Senate to do just a banking bill,” Sen. Booker said, “it would only accomplish further enriching of people in a multi-billion industry without addressing the harms of the drug war.”
Some social justice advocates cheered the senator’s stance that a banking-only bill will bolster the industry while leaving equity concerns unaddressed. But he was jeered by others who believe the incremental reform is achievable now and should be pursued while broader efforts continue. His threat to block the big banking bill until the War on Drugs is addressed has thrust Booker into the public limelight, after disappearing from headlines following his 2020 Presidential bid withdrawal.
“By going comprehensive & setting up a post-legalization system we believe we can build support & make progress on this issue,” Sen. Booker said. “SAFE Banking lacks critical restorative justice provisions & we must do more to help communities unfairly impacted by the War on Drugs.”
When pressed on the issue of disadvantaged communities obtaining capital to invest in cannabis, Sen. Booker again made the case that ending the federal marijuana prohibition fixes the banking issue. “…our legislation would create a grant program to help small cannabis businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people,” Sen. Booker said.
The senator declined to address the obvious, if unspoken, issue: his wide-ranging legalization bill may not garner the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act, which enjoys bipartisan support and stands a good chance at passage, could resolve certain issues while lawmakers continue to push for broader reform.
Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments on these and other issues to Cannabis_Reform@finance.senate.gov by September 1.