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).
"For the second year in a row, the Senate's budget writers have voted 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."
"While an appropriations amendment isn't a permanent fix to the banking problem, it is a significant step to correct a dangerous and unfair burden on responsible small-business owners and regulators.
"Bipartisan coalitions in both chambers have supported these reforms. It's time to make them the law of the land."
A similar amendment was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2015, but was not debated in the House and was ultimately stripped out during final omnibus budget negotiations. In 2014, a similar amendment was passed overwhelming by the full House of Representatives, but was not debated in the Senate and was dropped during omnibus negotiations. The House has not yet debated the Financial Services Appropriations bill in 2016, but a repeat of the cannabis banking amendment is anticipated if and when that debate takes place.
Stand-alone legislation has also been introduced in both the House and the Senate which would permanently address the cannabis banking issue. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act (S.1726 and H.R.2076) has received bipartisan support in both chambers.
Source: The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S. and the only organization representing cannabis-related businesses at the national level. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and works toward a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.