A U.S. Senate committee voted today in support of opening up banking services to state-legal marijuana businesses. By a vote of 16-14, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, forbidding the use of federal funds to penalize financial institutions that serve marijuana businesses operating legally under state law. The amendment was offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
A similar amendment was passed by the full House of Representatives in 2014, but was ultimately stripped out during the final omnibus budget negotiations conducted by the Senate. The House has not yet debated the Financial Services Appropriations bill in 2015, but a repeat of the cannabis banking amendment is anticipated if and when that debate takes place.
"It's encouraging to see members of the Senate stepping up and joining the House to address the banking crisis facing our industry," said National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith. "Access to basic banking services is one of the most critical challenges facing legal cannabis businesses and the state agencies tasked with regulating them."
"Bipartisan coalitions in both chambers are supporting these reforms. It's time to make them the law of the land."