Governors to Congress: Include Marijuana Banking in Defense Bill

A bipartisan group of the nation’s governors is pressing congressional leaders to ensure that a marijuana banking plan is included in the defense authorization bill the Senate will take up after Thanksgiving.

“Simply put, this is a public safety issue that Congress has a responsibility to address,” the 24 governors and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in the letter.

The House version of the defense authorization bill includes 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.

Credit union trade groups have endorsed the banking legislation, as has National Credit Union Administration board member Rodney Hood.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he wants the banking issue to be addressed in a comprehensive marijuana decriminalization bill and not in a separate measure.  However, some Republicans in the Senate may block that bill, so its prospects are uncertain.

The governors want the banking issue to be addressed in the defense measure, which is considered to be a must-pass bill.

In their letter, the governors, led by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, noted that 37 states, four U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have passed some form of recreational or medical marijuana legalization legislation. They said that medical and recreational cannabis sales were estimated to have totaled $17.5 billion last year. However, they said, because of “antiquated” banking laws, almost all cannabis sales are cashed-based.

“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,” the governors wrote. “The cannabis industry is legal in some form in the majority of U.S. states and it is too large of a market to be prohibited from banking opportunities.”


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