Fans of financial legitimacy for pot businesses, rejoice! The Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill today that would provide robust protection to financial institutions that opt to work with the cannabis industry, allowing cannabusinesses to open bank accounts, accept credit cards, and write checks. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up prematurely, but getting such an amendment out of committee and into a major funding bill is a huge step toward easing the cannabis industry’s banking woes.
The amendment, which passed 16-14, would “would prevent federal banking regulators from prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business,” according to a press release sent out by Senator Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) office. Merkley, along with our state’s own cannabis champion, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), proposed the amendment both to make the basic act of doing business easier for the Pacific Northwest’s legal cannabis business and as a public safety measure.
“The federal government should not be forcing Oregon’s legal marijuana businesses to carry gym bags full of cash to pay their taxes, employees, and bills,” said Merkley. “This is an invitation to robberies, money laundering, and organized crime. We need to enable our banks to serve these legal businesses without fearing devastating reprisals from the federal government.”
Here in Washington, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis board recently passed rules allowing cannabusinesses to at least pay their tax bill electronically, which should cut down on duffel bag deliveries to Olympia, but banking is still fraught. The trials and tribulations your average ganjapreneur has to go through to get a bank account are, to put it lightly, insane. If it goes the distance, this amendment will make the process a slightly more sane one.
Getting the amendment out of committee, according to Kerry Arndt, Senator Murray’s press secretary, is the hardest part. Once it’s part of an omnibus bill like the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, she said, it’s a small enough issue in the grand scheme of things that it’s unlikely to be a sticking point. However small it is in the grand scheme, though, it’s a pretty huge step toward legitimacy for legal states.
In other important Murray-sponsored amendment news, Murray passed another much-needed cannabis amendment as part of a Senate Health and Human Services/Education spending bill on June 9. That amendment would prevent federal agencies from leveling sanctions against doctors prescribing or authorizing medical marijuana in states where it is legal. That amendment would address many of the concerns expressed in Douglass Hiatt’srecent suit against the state, Carter v. Inslee.
For the record, that’s three different amendments promoting common sense and clarity in federal cannabis regulation that Senator Murray has been in on. She’s kind of the best.