By Lisa Rough
Congressional sponsors of an amendment to give cannabis businesses easier access to banking services railed against the rejection of the proposal by a House committee earlier today.
“I’m appalled at House Republican leadership for denying the opportunity for a vote on the marijuana banking amendment which gets cash off the streets and prevents future crime in our communities,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat. The amendment, proposed as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, was co-sponsored by Perlmutter and Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash).
Perlmutter and Heck both made reference to a recent incident in Aurora, Colo., where a security guard was shot and killed during an armed robbery of Green Heart Marijuana Dispensary. The shooting highlights the dangers that cannabis business operators face every day due to the nature of a cash industry.
“How many more armed robberies must we witness and security guards lives lost before we take action?” asked Perlmutter.
The amendment was blocked earlier today by the House Rules Committee.
Another blocked provision, from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), would have allowed Washington, D.C., to spend its own funding on legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis sales.
The Senate Appropriations Committee last week voted to approve an amendment that would prevent federal banking regulators from penalizing, prohibiting, or discouraging banks from providing services to state-legal, regulated marijuana businesses. It passed with a 16–14 vote, but the amendment did not contain any additional provisions regarding Washington, D.C., retail sales.
This isn’t the first attempt at removing banking hurdles facing the legal marijuana industry. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced a similar amendment last year that passed through the Senate Appropriations committee with a 16–14 vote before being stripped from the final appropriations bill.
While this is a disappointing, albeit not entirely unexpected, turn of events, not all hope is lost. If the Senate passes its own appropriations bill with the cannabis banking rider, the House will have a chance to approve or reject the amendment.
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