US House pushes marijuana banking bill forward, though final passage uncertain

WASHINGTON — Cannabis dispensaries across the country moved closer to using banks like many other businesses can when the U.S. House on Friday approved a bill that would dramatically change banking regulations.

Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter and Ohio Republican Dave Joyce, co-sponsors of the legislation, said Friday their proposal would allow medical and recreational marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the use of move away from the cash-only business model they have been forced into. use by US banking laws.

“We need to make sense of what’s really dangerous right now in this space where so many states allow dispensaries, for grow operations,” Perlmutter said. “There’s just a lot of money and that money can really cause problems.”

While the federal government has mostly left the regulation and oversight of the marijuana trade to the states that have legalized it, the country’s banking system is controlled at the federal level.

The federal government’s classification of marijuana as an illegal Schedule I substance, by definition something with no medical use and high potential for abuse, means it’s hard for cannabis companies to use the banks.

Some marijuana companies have hired armored vehicles and armed guards to transfer money to banks, an arrangement that has sometimes worked, but carries more risk than if they could use banks as non-producing companies do. of cannabis.

Others have maintained cash-only operations, a move that Perlmutter and Joyce say can lead to an increase in thefts and other crimes, even if the companies act within their state laws.

The so-called SAFE Banking Act passed the House on Friday as part of a much larger separate bill that aims to improve U.S. manufacturing and boost competitiveness with China on multiple fronts, including semis. -drivers.

The proposal will, however, have to survive the conference process between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

At this time, neither Joyce nor Perlmutter are sure their provision will remain in the final package, given concerns from some Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Joyce and Perlmutter said Friday they disagreed with senators on how Congress passing the banking change would impact other marijuana laws, including code-amendment bills. taxes, changing the criminal justice approach to marijuana, or legalizing the plant altogether.

“Our philosophy is that you have to have something to break the ice. And in the Senate, they haven’t had a cannabis hearing — maybe a shy one — since 1971, let alone legislation, let alone votes,” Perlmutter said. “So our job is to familiarize them with the subject and get them to act.”

Some of the Democratic senators, Perlmutter said, believe offsetting the banking changes will put the “wind out of the sails” on efforts to pass further changes to federal cannabis laws. So they want to expand the legislation.

But Joyce and Perlmutter said they believe the incremental approach is the best way to send bills to the Biden administration and fear that if the bill grows too large some lawmakers may no longer support its passage.

“For every person you win, you could lose three,” Joyce said. “And that’s why you want to continue to have a smaller framework where you can still have people adding to the bill rather than getting off of it.”

Adding the Marijuana Banking Amendment to China’s broader competitiveness legislation was a step forward for the 180 co-sponsors of the Marijuana Banking Legislation, 26 of whom are Republicans. But that’s far from a guarantee.

Proponents of the legislation were able to get their language added last year as an amendment to the Department of Defense’s annual policy bill, but it did not survive the conference process. The bill also passed the House as stand-alone legislation.

Perlmutter and Joyce said Friday that if they were stranded in the Senate again, they would continue to champion the legislation, especially as an amendment to other must-have bills.

“Each of these cannabis industries operates under the laws and regulations put in place by that state,” Joyce said. “So why shouldn’t the banking system treat them the same way.”

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