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Supporters believe cannabis businesses will be able to access banks soon.

Say you’re a representative in the U.S. Congress and you’ve supported a bill that passes seven times in the House, only to fail in the Senate. Would you give up?

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) hasn’t. Perlmutter is determined to see the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act become law before he retires at the end of the current session, which concludes Jan. 3, 2023.

The bill (H.R. 1996), which would ensure legitimate cannabis-related businesses have access to financial services, passed most recently on April 19.

But Perlmutter, who has been championing financial legitimacy for cannabis businesses since Colorado legalized pot in 2012, thinks there might finally be a path forward in the Senate.

“We have at least 10 Republicans and virtually all Democrats” ready to vote for the act, Perlmutter told KOA’s Colorado Morning News host Marty Lenz in a July 26 interview.

Because marijuana is still officially illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, banks have been reluctant to provide financial services to cannabis businesses.

“We know we’re at 48 states that have some level of marijuana use, but the federal government prohibits it for any purpose, which then causes dispensaries and other businesses to have to deal in cash, which then attracts crime,” Perlmutter said. “We’ve got to fix the banking laws in the United States to reflect reality.”

The bill is awaiting action in the Senate, where 24 senators, including 19 Democrats and five Republicans, stated in a May 12 letter that they supported its passage.

“I think we may have overcome our last hurdle last week,” Perlmutter said in the July 26 interview.

Although the bill has bipartisan support, it has met with opposition on both sides of the aisle — Republicans who thought the bill was too broad and Democrats who thought it was too narrow.

But now, Perlmutter said, “folks have come to realize this is a serious business, [and] these are serious public safety issues. … I think there’s a real opportunity to pass something that really will benefit the industry and make things safer.”

If the bill isn’t passed by the end of his term, Perlmutter said Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) is prepared to pick up the mantle and get it across the finish line. 

But Perlmutter is determined to see it through.

“We’re going to get it passed this time. I’m confident of that,” he said.

New crack in the wall?

Another indication that the federal cannabis wall is beginning to crack is H.R. 8454, the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Act.

The act, which passed in the House on July 27, would make it easier for researchers to study cannabis and its derivatives. 

It would allow registered entities, including institutions of higher education, practitioners and manufacturers, to use marijuana or CBD for medical research.

It also would direct the Drug Enforcement Administration to register manufacturers and distributors for the purpose of commercial production of an approved drug that contains THC or CBD.

The bill also would take steps to assure an adequate supply of cannabis for research and would allow doctors to talk to patients about the potential benefits and harms of marijuana.

If it passes the Senate, as expected, the bill would be the first standalone marijuana bill to become law.

’Shrooms for PTSD

Among the ballot measures Colorado voters will decide in November is the Natural Medicine Health Act, which would allow doctors to prescribe psychedelic medicines.

Colorado Natural Medicine, backers of the act, submitted more than 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in June. On July 21, the organization said the petitions had been verified and that Initiative 58 would appear on the November ballot, the Colorado Times Recorder reports.

The Natural Medicine Health Act would make it possible for psilocybin mushrooms to be prescribed to patients 21 and older beginning in 2024 for conditions such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies would make rules concerning its use.

Initiative 58 would not authorize recreational use, retail sale or use of psilocybin mushrooms other than as prescribed by a physician.

Colorado Natural Medicine has stated they would petition for medical use of other psychedelics in 2026 if Initiative 58 passes.

Kevin Matthews, a representative of Colorado Natural Medicine, was quoted in the Times Recorder’s July 27 post saying that psychedelic medicines hold promise for people suffering with PTSD, depression and other mental health challenges and could help the state deal with its growing mental health crisis.

“These are research-backed therapies that can work even where other treatments have failed,” he says. 

Jeanne Davant is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. She worked for daily newspapers in D.C., North Carolina and Colorado, and has taught journalism and creative writing. She joined the Colorado Publishing House in 2017.