Defense Deal Omits Marijuana Banking Plan

A compromise version of a 2021 defense authorization bill does not include a marijuana banking provision, much to the consternation of House members who had pushed the proposal.

“There is a great deal of frustration,” House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass., said as the committee considered a rule structuring the House floor debate on the defense legislation Tuesday.

House and Senate Armed Services Committee members struck the deal on the massive defense bill. The House already has passed its version of the annual defense bill, but the Senate has not. Rather than waiting for Senate passage of its bill and a conference agreement between the two chambers, leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees struck a deal on the bill even before the Senate considered it.

House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he had pushed the marijuana provision, but the Senate rejected it. In considering the unique process used to cut the deal, he asked the Rules Committee not to allow any amendments to the measure, including the marijuana proposal.

The House version of the defense authorization bill included a provision that would provide credit unions and banks with a safe regulatory harbor for simply providing services to a marijuana-related business. In addition, the House passed a stand-alone cannabis banking bill earlier this year.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they want the marijuana banking legislation to be considered as part of an overall cannabis decriminalization bill. “The blame is over in the Senate,” McGovern said.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., the chief sponsor of marijuana banking legislation in the House, said the issue is a public service problem since marijuana-based business usually is conducted in cash. Such businesses have problems obtaining traditional financial services. “People are getting killed,” he said. “People are getting robbed.”

McGovern and others singled out Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., for insisting the banking provision be removed and considered separately. “I quite frankly don’t know what the hell his problem is,” McGovern said.


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