Last updated October 27, 2020
Federal officials would be blocked from punishing banks for working with marijuana businesses under an annual spending bill released by congressional Democratic leaders on Sunday.
The legislation, which is set to be considered by a House subcommittee on Monday, would also remove a longstanding rider that prevents the city of Washington, D.C. from spending its own money to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis sales.
WASHINGTON — Unlike most recent congressional recesses, this past summer’s break has seen some key financial policy news as bank regulators finalized a pivotal rule rolling back the Volcker Rule.
But when lawmakers return from their late-summer break on Sept. 9, there are a host of other unresolved financial services issues facing them, including efforts to let bankers serve the marijuana industry to reforms of anti-money-laundering requirements.
This could be a big moment for marijuana and Congress.
But Democrats are fighting Democrats over whether to focus on social justice issues or industry priorities like banking. Marijuana advocates are divided among themselves over whether to push for full legalization or settle for less far-reaching legislation. And many Republicans — some of whom are seeing the benefits of cannabis legalization in their home states — are still decidedly against any legalization on the national level, even for medicinal uses.
Congress won’t pass broad marijuana legislation, but a measure that would provide banks and credit unions with a safe harbor for doing business with marijuana businesses has a reasonable chance of being enacted, Becky Dansky, executive director of the Safe and Responsible Banking Alliance said Tuesday.
Speaking at NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus, Dansky, a lobbyist pushing the safe harbor bill, said she expects the House to consider the legislation within the next few weeks.
The House Financial Services Committee has approved legislation to provide the safe harbor, but the Senate Banking Committee has not acted on companion legislation.
Dansky said that while Senate passage is less certain, Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Id.) recently has sounded more positive about the measure.
California’s experiment with legal recreational cannabis use by adults has had its share of growing pains. Tax revenues have lagged badly because of slow-moving permit processing for legal shops and a failure to crack down on illegal shops with much cheaper products. Proposition 64’s promise of “local control” over allowing marijuana sales is the subject of a court fight over state lawmakers’ decision to allow deliveries — even in cities and counties that oppose sales. And state Treasurer Fiona Ma suggested in June that Gov. Gavin Newsom wasn’t focusing enough on making the legal recreational marijuana industry work better — a premise that Nicole Elliot, his senior cannabis adviser, disputed.