Congress should enact marijuana banking legislation and then tackle the larger issue of legalization, Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis told Democratic senators last week.
“Not only are cash-only businesses targets for crime, cannabis businesses are further disadvantaged compared to other legal businesses by being unable to open bank accounts or obtain loans at reasonable rates,” Polis wrote in a letter to Democratic senators who are seeking comment on broad legalization legislation.
He continued, “The cannabis industry is simply too large to be prohibited from banking opportunities, and the Senate must remedy this harm by bringing this measure up for a vote in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs immediately.”
The House already has passed legislation that would provide financial institutions that provide services to cannabis-related businesses with a safe harbor from regulatory sanctions. The Credit Union National Association and the National Association of Financially-Insured Credit Unions have endorsed that legislation.
However, key Democratic senators earlier this year vowed to block marijuana banking legislation unless it is enacted as part of a comprehensive federal cannabis legalization measure.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., went so far as to say, “I will lay myself down and do everything I can to stop an easy banking bill.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., agreed, say that a banking bill would only deal “with a small part” of the issue.
Any marijuana legislation is likely to require 60 votes for Senate passage, creating a huge legislative hurdle.
Polis said that marijuana businesses need access to financial services. He said that in 2020, Colorado reached $2.9 billion in cannabis sales and those sales generated $387 million in state tax revenue. The industry supported more than 43,000 cannabis and ancillary jobs.