Industry Insiders: Trulieve CEO, Kim Rivers on the latest in U.S. cannabis regulation
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee backed legislation that would offer federal protections to banks that offer financial services to cannabis businesses, which is still against federal law despite being legal in many states.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday he plans to bring the bill to a Senate floor vote “as quickly as possible.”
The measure, which passed in the committee 14 to 9, has been billed as improving safety for cannabis-based businesses that must now rely on cash, making them targets for crime.
“For too long cannabis businesses have been forced to rely primarily on cash transactions,” Schumer said. “This makes them easy targets for theft, robbery and other crimes.”
Hundreds of institutions, including state-chartered banks and credit unions, do serve the industry, but the proposed legislation could allow bigger institutions to get more comfortable with it.
The bill falls short of a broader legalization and regulation effort Schumer and other Democrats have supported, but comes as Biden administration health officials have recommended easing restrictions on marijuana.
The committee did beat back an effort by Republicans to expand a provision aimed at protecting companies like gun and energy companies from bank regulators.
That fight will complicate passage of the bill in the Senate and especially the Republican-run House.
A version of the bill passed the House when Democrats controlled the chamber with majority backing in both parties, including from Kevin McCarthy of California, now the speaker, before stalling in the Senate.
Democrats hope to broaden the new legislation in the Senate, but will again have to win over Republicans to do so.
Also, Democrat Raphael Warnock of Georgia complained that the legislation greenlit new protections for the banking industry did not include provisions addressing consequences of the drug war, which he said has disproportionately impacted the Black community.
“We will just make the comfortable more comfortable,” he said. “I don’t believe in trickle-down justice.”
Warnock proposed a five-year sunset for the bill to put pressure for following up the bill with other laws, but Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown of Ohio opposed it as creating too much uncertainty for small businesses and community bankers.
The top Republican backing the bill, Steve Daines of Montana, said Wednesday he opposes legalizing marijuana but said the bill is about public safety.
With assistance from Laura Litvan.