The Senate Committee on Appropriations voted 16-14 today in favor of an amendment to the 2016 Financial Services Appropriations Bill that could allow banks to provide services to marijuana retailers in states with adult-use and medical cannabis. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) would prohibit the federal government from spending funds to prohibit or penalize financial institutions, “that provide financial services to certain persons in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medicinal purposes.”
This amendment will now move forward as a part of the larger package in the federal funding bill. Legislation is also moving forward in the House and it is currently unclear whether the marijuana banking reform included in the Senate bill will make it to the President once the two legislative bodies reach a final compromise. Unlike the version that is moving forward in the House, today’s Senate committee vote also proposes to delete a congressional ban on legalizing and regulating recreational sales in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this month, Merkeley joined a group of senators in introducing the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act, a bill designed to create protections for those offering financial services to those in the cannabis industry.
Currently cannabis businesses operating within state laws have primarily been denied banking services from institutions fearing prosecution under federal law.
“Marijuana businesses in Colorado alone are on pace for nearly $1 billion dollars in revenue this year. Forcing these companies to store that much cash anywhere other than inside banks raises significant public safety concerns,” said Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Current federal laws are putting a bullseye on businesses that are operating legally under state laws, as well as their employees and customers. It’s almost as if some federal officials want to see marijuana businesses get robbed.”
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