Despite his strong stances when it comes to cannabis legalization and reform, Senator Cory Booker has stated that he is now “open to compromises” when it comes to the Senate passing banking legislation that prioritizes social equity. 

In an interview, Booker claimed that he was considering more cannabis reform at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing that he presided over. This is a switch for Booker, as in the past, he has faced backlash from cannabis advocates who claim that, despite being a democrat, he does not go to bat for them.  

“Look, I’m a compromise guy. New Jersey sent me down here to get things done—not to make stands where I make good points but don’t pass bills,” he says regarding compromising on reform. 

Booker recently filed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), and calls it a “gold standard bill” for federal cannabis reform. However, he is willing to take a second look if it doesn’t go over well. 

“I’m open to compromises that are going to achieve my goals of safety, of investment opportunities that are equal for business communities and, finally, to make sure we do something for all of these people right now who have marijuana possession charges that deserve some relief from the impact that it’s having on their economic and family wellbeing,”he says. 

In the past, he has opposed the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which supporters of legal cannabis have been pushing for in order to make the industry safer. Allegedly, he claims that while he supports the bill and finds it important, he wants it to be “balanced with us having some restorative justice as well.” 

Behind the scenes, there have been bicameral and bipartisan talks with different offices about introducing more cannabis reforms, including the SAFE banking act. If those reach the 60-vote mark in the Senate this year, they could actually pass.

While it may not have enough support to pass this session, it’s also possible that various parts of proposed legislation could be rolled into different reform measures that could pass. 

The bicameral sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), had a briefing last week organized by the U.S. Cannabis Council that looks at next steps for reform and what needs to be passed in order to make things better for the industry. During that conversation, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) claims that he had a “great conversation” with Booker about different compromises that could be reached. 

“I think the senator is fully aware of the consequences of this failed policy of prohibition in terms of what it does with the SAFE Banking Act and the threat that is made to the very communities he wants to support,” he says. “I think he’s trying to be able to thread the needle.”

In past interviews, Perlmutter has said that he feels having CAOA (Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act) introduced to the Senate, a recent measure for cannabis reform, means that a new understanding on the importance of cannabis reform has been reached, and that CAOA and the SAFE Banking Act could have a good chance for the future. 

Assistant Majority Leader Patty Murray (D-WA) signed on to CAOA following its introduction, and stressed the importance of adding in a banking bill to the legislature as well, so that businesses can have safe cannabis access. 

While cannabis reform still has a way to go on the federal level, the willingness of Senator Cory Booker and other important leaders to consider more steps in the right direction is a win for the movement. 

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