Cannabis Banking Update

Washington, DC…This week, the House passed H.R. 3055, a bundle of appropriations bills referred to as a “minibus,” that includes several amendments on cannabis banking and other cannabis- related issues. Last week the House Appropriations Committee approved the financial services appropriations bill for Fiscal 2020 that contains the SAFE Banking Act of 2019 (SAFE Act). If enacted, the SAFE Act would allow banks to provide marijuana-related businesses with financial services without the threat of prosecution for violating a myriad of federal banking and anti-racketeering laws.

In addition to the SAFE Act, House Democrats submitted several other amendments to prohibit the federal government from interfering with states’ rights to impose their own cannabis laws. The most noteworthy proposal, introduced by Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Placer) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), would prohibit the federal Department of Justice from imposing federal law over state cannabis programs. The amendment was adopted by a 267-165 vote, with numerous Republicans voting “aye”.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is expected to oppose the Blumenauer-McClintock amendment, but the provision will likely have support from backers from the STATES Act, a similar proposal in the Senate that would grant states autonomy over marijuana enforcement. The provision could also face opposition from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) who said recently he prefers an approach to marijuana reform that de-schedules the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. When the House and Senate go to a Senate-House conference committee to negotiate a final version of the appropriations package for Fiscal 2020, the proposal should have strong support from the House in addition to some backers in the Senate. Advocates of marijuana reform hope this momentum will continue into the final round of negotiations.