In a historic 321 to 103 vote, the United States House of Representatives has passed a bill to allow banks to work with marijuana businesses that are legal under state law.
The measure now heads to the Senate, where its passage would send it to President Trump for consideration. Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo has said he wants to consider similar legislation in the coming months, notes Reuters, but it is not clear if the full Senate will vote on such a measure, analysts say.
“Some Republicans are wary of giving banks the green light to engage in marijuana business while it is still federally illegal”, says Reuters. “And some Democrats have said they would rather consider broader legislation around marijuana legalization or criminal justice reform rather than a targeted banking bill.”
The bill clarifies that proceeds from legitimate cannabis businesses would not be considered illegal, and directs federal regulators to write up rules for how they would supervise such banking activity.
Banks have thrown their weight behind the legislation, telling lawmakers they need clarity on whether they can do business with cannabis companies where it is legal at the state level despite the fact that marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
“Our members are committed to serving the financial needs of their communities – including those that have voted to legalize cannabis,” said the American Bankers Association in a letter sent to lawmakers Tuesday seeking their support.
“I have met with many constituents, including owners of small businesses in Alaska’s legal cannabis industry as well as state leaders of financial institutions”, said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, co-sponsor of HR 1595. “These meetings have highlighted how important it is for these entrepreneurs to have access to financial services for their business operations. When cannabis businesses are not permitted to utilize traditional financial institutions, they are forced to operate cash-only businesses, leaving significant amounts of cash out in the open and making these businesses high-profile targets for robbery and other crime.” Young continues by stating that “The SAFE Banking Act is as much a public safety bill as it is a cannabis bill, and I am proud to have been an original cosponsor of this important initiative.”