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The House on Friday passed marijuana banking legislation for the sixth time, sending it to the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain.
This time, the marijuana provision was attached to the America COMPETES Act, comprehensive legislation that attempts to strengthen the competitiveness of American business and to counter Chinese anti-competitive actions.
That bill is considered a high priority for congressional Democrats. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., convinced congressional leaders to attach his amendment to the bill. Perlmutter has been attempting to attach the banking provisions to high-priority legislation. Last year, the House passed marijuana banking legislation as part of the annual defense authorization legislation, but it was dropped during conference negotiations on the defense measure.
The Senate already has passed its competitiveness bill, so a House-Senate conference committee will attempt to hammer out a compromise measure. The Senate bill does not include the cannabis provision.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he wants to consider the banking legislation as part of a comprehensive bill to decriminalize marijuana. Perlmutter and others have been trying to convince Schumer to consider the banking bill separately. Perlmutter has announced he will not seek reelection this year, a decision that supporters of the bill say lends urgency to the matter.
The marijuana banking amendment would provide banks and credit unions with a regulatory safe harbor for providing financial services to marijuana-related businesses in states where cannabis is legal.
“Cannabis-related businesses – big and small – and their employees are in desperate need of access to the banking system and access to capital in order to operate in an efficient, safe manner and compete in the growing global cannabis marketplace,” Perlmutter said, following House passage of the competitiveness bill.
Credit union and banking trade groups support Perlmutter’s legislation.
“This bill addresses an important public safety issue by providing legal businesses access to financial services,” Jim Nussle, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association said, following House passage.
In a letter to House leaders prior to the vote, Brad Thaler, vice president of legislative affairs at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, said that a number of credit unions have said they are being approached by marijuana-related companies whose owners want to become members of the credit unions. “As the cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana remains illegal at the federal level under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the majority of credit unions remain hesitant to provide financial services to these members and their small businesses,” he wrote.