Regulation

A Bipartisan Effort Is Underway To Simplify Banking For Cannabis Sellers

In a world where it seems like Democrats and Republicans can’t work together on anything, there is at least one area of common ground.

Marijuana.

Not because they want to collectively smoke it — though perhaps mellowing out some would help the situation on Capitol Hill — but because they are working together to make banking easier for marijuana-based businesses in those U.S. states where the drug is legal.

That move comes despite the fact that the Trump administration has signaled it favors maintaining tough marijuana restrictions nationally.

The eight senators in what is evolving into the pot caucus include members like libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul and liberal Democrat Cory Booker. The group has a introduced a bill to block federal banking regulators from pushing a financial institution to stop serving marijuana business or the businesses’ landlords or lawyers in states where the drug has been made legal for medical or recreational purposes.

The government would also not be allowed to give banks incentives to cut off the businesses.

The rule would serve as an extension of an Obama-era policy that gave banks guidance on working with cannabis-related businesses and staying within the law. Mostly that guidance served to convince many FIs that the best way to avoid trouble with the law was to avoid the sector entirely.  The argument:   compliance with complex requirements was too expensive and did not assure them they would not be prosecuted in the future.

As a result, cannabis dispensaries operate as all cash businesses — or lie to their banks about what it is they actually do.

This bill is not the first attempt at such legislation – the pot caucus has pushed similar legislation in the past, and managed more support with each effort. There is a thought that the legislation might actually pass the nearly evenly divided Senate.

And such legislation may be necessary, as the Trump administration does not seem to be as willing to take a hands-off approach to marijuana’s legally grey status as the Obama administration was. During the signing of a spending bill earlier this month, the president commented that provisions in the bill that ban the DoJ from using any funds to block states from implementing medical marijuana law goes against his constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute federal laws.

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