U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Measure That Would Allow Banks and Other Financial Institutions to Provide Services to State-Legal Marijuana Businesses
Appropriations amendment approved with bipartisan support is intended to improve public safety by reducing the number of marijuana businesses that must operate entirely in cash because they are being denied access to banking and financial services
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that is intended to ease access to banking and other financial services for state-legal marijuana businesses.
The amendment, authored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would prevent the spending of funds to prohibit or penalize banks and other financial institutions for providing services to state-legal marijuana businesses. Currently, many banks are unwilling to open accounts for marijuana businesses because they fear federal penalties, which has resulted in many of those businesses operating on a cash-only basis.
“More than half of the U.S. population lives in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal for adult or medical use,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Millions of marijuana consumers are relying on licensed and regulated businesses to provide them with safe and legal access to marijuana.
“Current federal policy all but ensures marijuana businesses operate on a cash-only basis, which raises safety concerns for their employees and the surrounding communities,” Capecchi said. “This measure should ease financial institutions’ concerns about opening accounts for these state-legal businesses.”
In order to become law, the full Senate must approve the appropriations bill, the House must adopt similar language in its Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, and the president must sign it. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar amendment last year, but it was not included in the final spending bill.