Senate Committee Votes to Protect Banks Serving Legal Cannabis Companies

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday in support of expanding bank access to the cannabis industry.

The amendment, approved in a 16-14 vote, forbids any federal expenditures on the pursuit and punishment of banks for serving law-abiding companies in the legal cannabis space. The amendment is attached to the 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which now heads to the Senate floor.

In a debate preceding the vote, the amendment’s sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) argued that keeping cannabis companies from entering the national banking system is a threat to public safety.  “It makes no sense to have bags of cash, and it’s an invitation to organized crime, an invitation to theft, and invitation to tax evasion,” said Sen. Merkley.

“For the second year in a row, the Senate’s budget writers have voted to address the banking crisis facing our industry,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement addressing the news. “Access to basic banking services is one of the most critical challenges facing legal cannabis businesses and the state agencies tasked with regulating them.”

“While an appropriations amendment isn’t a permanent fix to the banking problem, it is a significant step to correct a dangerous and unfair burden on responsible small-business owners and regulators,” Smith said.

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