Dmitry Moraine

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Cannabis Banking

Lawmakers yesterday held the first Senate committee hearing to be aimed at addressing banking challenges for the cannabis industry; the hearing included arguments from financial institution representatives, state-legal cannabis professionals, and elected officials from states with reformed cannabis laws.

Full story after the jump.

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing aimed at the banking challenges for the cannabis industry yesterday, but only one Republican committee member bothered to show up, CNBC reports. Of the 13 GOP members on the committee, only Chairman Mike Crapo attended the hearing.

Sen. Corey Gardner, a Colorado Republican who is a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act which would allow banks to do business with the cannabis industry, testified during the hearing and called the hearing “an important step toward the federal government waking up to the reality that the cannabis issue is not going away and needs action.”

“In short, the states are leading on this issue, and the federal government has failed to respond. It has closed its eyes and plugged its ears and pretended the issue will go away. It won’t.” – Gardner, during his testimony, via CNBC

Joanne Sherwood, CEO of Citywide Banks on behalf of the American Bankers Association, provided written testimony to the panel, outlining the industry’s issues obtaining banking access and noting that while some financial institutions are serving cannabusinesses, the majority “will not accept the legal, regulatory, or reputational risk associated with banking cannabis-related businesses absent congressional permission to do so.”

Brady Cobb, CEO of cannabis investment firm SOL Global and a former cannabis industry lobbyist, told Yahoo Finance that Crapo appeared to have taken the hearing seriously.

“Sen. Mike Crapo saying there is a strong case for cannabis banking to be fixed is one of the clearest statements of intent to date, and for it to come from the chair of Senate Banking shows how seriously this reform is being taken,” Cobb said in the report.

Cobb indicated that, as a lobbyist, he is urging the Democratic members of Congress to avoid adding other issues to ‘baby steps’ legislation – such as social justice – because Republicans are more likely to support cannabis-related bills that are narrow in their scope.

“It’s so bizarre to me that after fighting to turn Republicans for two to three years on this issue, now they’re kind of in lockstep, and I gotta go back, and now I’m going to the Democratic side of the of the hallways going ‘Come on, we’ve got ’em here, what are you doing?’” he said.

The Democratic members who attended the hearing – which did not include Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who represents Massachusetts, which allows adult-use sales – largely supported the reforms.

Ranking member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) explained that, due to federal law, legal cannabis operators “are forced to operate in the shadows.”

“Dealing in large amounts of cash puts a robbery target on the backs for workers, creates a safety hazard for communities and makes it harder to combat money laundering,” she said during the hearing.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, urged his colleagues to pass the bill.

“There’s nothing good about forcing the cannabis industry to operate in cash,” he said.

Despite the support for the measure – seemingly from both sides of the aisle from the lawmakers in attendance – the SAFE Banking Act has not been voted on by either chamber.

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