Nearing finish line, fight for cannabis banking bill shifts to the Senate


Advocates are hopeful that a bill that would permit the monetary sector to lastly serve cannabis firms could head to President Trump’s desk by the finish of the year.

The Residence in a robust bipartisan vote final week passed the Safe and Fair Enforcement (Protected) Banking Act, which would permit banks and monetary institutions to operate with cannabis firms. The bill now faces an uncertain future in the Republican-held Senate, with small time left on the legislative calendar and Congress currently distracted by funding fights and the Residence Democratic impeachment inquiry into Trump.

But supporters see developing momentum for the legislation and are hopeful they are nearing the finish line in spite of challenges. The uncommon coalition of monetary sector lobbyists, progressive lawmakers, law enforcement officials and cannabis firms backing the bill cheered the Residence vote as developing momentum for the Senate.

“A robust bipartisan outcome in the Residence final evening implies that we have a much better opportunity of having the Senate’s consideration,” Terry Holt, a spokesman for National Cannabis Roundtable and a companion at HDMK, told The Hill right after the 321-103 Residence vote, which saw 229 Democrats, 91 Republicans and a single Independent back the bill.

“Because the authors in the Residence had been in a position to operate collectively in a bipartisan way, the bill did boost to the point exactly where we really feel like it can attain the subsequent stage.” Market groups have lengthy pushed for legislation on the problem.

Banks and credit unions have largely avoided serving cannabis firms since of the legal limbo involving federal and state laws. Cannabis is illegal below federal law, but 33 states have legalized healthcare or recreational use of the drug. Any monetary firm that lends to, finances or holds cash for a cannabis enterprise or its staff could face steep federal penalties, even in states that have legalized the drug.

Advocates for legalization and a monetary solutions sector eager to tap a quickly-developing business have united behind the Protected Banking Act. The bill would prohibit federal regulators from penalizing banks or credit unions for serving cannabis firms that comply with state laws. It is a prime priority for a cadre of strong monetary solutions lobbying groups, such as the American Bankers Association (ABA), the Independent Neighborhood Bankers of America and the Credit Union National Association.

The concentrate is now on the Senate Banking Committee and its chairman, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who has pledged to take action on the problem. Although Crapo is personally opposed to marijuana legalization, he told CQ final week that his panel will look at the Protected Banking Act or a comparable bill “as quickly as we can.” Supporters of the bill cheered Crapo’s pledge.

“Chairman Crapo indicated he desires to get a cannabis banking bill marked up by the finish of the year, and we anticipate it will be comparable to the Protected Banking Act. This week’s historic bipartisan vote in the Residence undoubtedly builds momentum for Senate action,” mentioned ex-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a strategic adviser for the Cannabis Trade Federation. But there are nevertheless inquiries about the depth of GOP Senate help.

Although Republicans have eagerly sophisticated other bills to ease monetary sector regulation, GOP senators have shown small interest in grappling with the controversy more than cannabis. Only two GOP senators attended a July Banking panel hearing on the bill: Crapo and Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), a single of only 5 Republican co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill.

“It is seriously crucial to see what Chairman Crapo proposes,” mentioned a monetary solutions lobbyist advocating for the bill. “We do not know exactly where his head is on this,” the lobbyist added. “We’re extremely appreciative of his interest and his help and locating a resolution, but the devil’s seriously going to be in the particulars.”

Bill supporters have taken measures to win more than Republican backing, in unique from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Residence version integrated a measure to ease regulations on hemp firms, a important business in McConnell’s residence state of Kentucky. McConnell, who could make or break the measure, helped safe a provision to lift federal penalties on hemp production in the 2018 farm bill.

But McConnell remains a wild card. The Senate leader has also spoken out against legalizing marijuana and referred to as cannabis hemp’s “illicit cousin.”
A spokesman for McConnell declined to comment. Yet another query mark is President Trump, who has not addressed the problem.

The bill’s supporters, even though, say GOP senators will be motived to take action to address the split in federal and state laws and the legal limbo faced by banks. “There is a developing sense of urgency behind resolving the cannabis banking challenge since it would considerably boost public security and boost transparency into the quickly expanding state-legal cannabis business,” Curbelo mentioned.

Advocates note that cannabis firms typically deal in money since they do not have access to banking. Curbelo mentioned he was confident lawmakers would make a decision that “this business deserves the exact same access to banking solutions as all other folks.” Randal Meyer, executive director for a cannabis coalition, Worldwide Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, also touted the Protected Banking Act to Republicans who do not want to legalize cannabis.

“The Protected Banking Act does not legalize cannabis, it solves a narrow and certain public security and policy query,” Meyer mentioned. But the bill also faces opposition from groups who see it as a step toward legalizing marijuana nationally.

“We’re foolish to believe this is the finish to the marijuana business, this is the starting. To them, this is legalization by the back door since it enables institutional investors to market place and market marijuana, which is their dream,” mentioned Kevin Sabet, former White Residence Workplace of National Drug Manage Policy adviser and CEO of Clever Approaches to Marijuana, a group opposing legalization.

“We believe that banking would be a handout to drug cartels who will exploit and expose U.S. monetary systems to their finish,” he added. “I do not believe the Republicans want to be the celebration of transnational criminal organization.”
Nonetheless, monetary business groups say they intend to prioritize the legislation this fall and are pushing the Senate to act.

“We think that the Protected Banking Act gives a strong foundation,” mentioned James Ballentine, ABA’s executive vice president of congressional relations and political affairs.

“If it had been to come to be law nowadays, it would be incredibly beneficial.”

This story was initially reported by SYLVAN LANE AND ALEX GANGITANO at The Hill.

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