WASHINGTON, DC — The marijuana industry’s biggest ask of this newly minted trifecta of Democratic Party leaders in Washington is now imperiled by the gavel of one man: Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who says without stout racial justice components — the ones opposed by Republicans — the SAFE Banking Act won’t leave his committee this Congress.
Now chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Brown knows the nation’s banks are clamoring to cash in on the nation’s new multi-billion dollar marijuana industry.
“It’s because I’m the chairman of the committee, and we’re not moving on the bill until we deal with the social discrepancies and structural racism of these laws”Chair Sherrod Brown
Still, Brown says no marijuana banking without racial equity. He’s got leverage, and he’s vowing to use every bit of it.
“It’s not just taking care of the banking industry and that industry, it’s making sure that we do sentencing reform at the same time or it’s not going to happen without it,” Brown told The News Station at the Capitol.
Still, in his most forceful comments to date on the topic since becoming chair, he’s drawn his line in the sand, knowing his stance makes passage more difficult.
“Sure it does. Of course it does. That’s not a reason to move on,” Brown said.
The chair knows marijuana is big business. Big banks — the ones Brown now has oversight of — are clamoring to get in on these billions of dollars and they know where to find him. He doesn’t seem to care about either formidable camp currently banging at his ornate door these days.
CEO’s of cannabis conglomerates and bankers may be sweating, but Brown says he’s not. As chair, he’s now empowered to uproot decades and centuries of injustices, and he’s vowing to bang his gavel towards those ends.
“I don’t know that it’s a battle. I don’t know that any bill moves out of this committee until they — until we really deal with sentencing issues and structural racism,” Brown continued. “I mean, the banking and housing system, including the government backstopping it, is from black codes to Jim Crow to redlining to Trump locking in discriminatory housing practices — and I’m not going to add to that. I’m going to pull back and try to fix that.”
For now, he’s not taking pushback, either.
“It’s because I’m the chairman of the committee, and we’re not moving on the bill until we deal with the social discrepancies and structural racism of these laws,” Brown said.
The new chair has big plans: And housing is at the top of his short list. Brown plans to flip the contemporary focus of his committee on its head.
“This committee, it’s called Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs,” Brown told The News Station, “it’s been all about banking and little about housing, and the emphasis on housing is increasing many fold.”