Washington, D.C. – Today, House Republicans blocked a crucial amendment addressing the marijuana banking crisis as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 5485). The bi-partisan amendment, filed Monday, June 20 by U.S. Reps. Denny Heck (WA-10) and Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), would have banned federal regulators from penalizing banks, credit unions, and other depository institutions for providing banking services to legal and licensed marijuana businesses.
This comes after the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a similar amendment to the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act in a 16-14 vote on Thursday, June 16.
The amendment would have allowed legitimate marijuana-related businesses operating according to state laws to access the banking system in an effort to reduce the risks and public safety concern of operating as a cash-only business. While the amendment does not go as far as the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015, introduced by Perlmutter and Heck in April of 2015, it would have represented a step forward in helping to get cash off the streets and into the banking system.
“Frankly, I’m frustrated by this terrible decision, and the American people should be, too. Our worst fears were realized last weekend with the tragic murder of a father and Marine during an armed robbery in Colorado. We are going backwards at a time when it is critical to public safety that we make progress,” said Rep. Heck. “We’ve been pushing for this common sense change for more than three years now, received bipartisan support, passed the amendment by a wide margin, and now all the sudden this issue is labeled a ‘poison pill.’ As more states legalize adult recreational marijuana, Speaker Ryan and Rules Committee Chairman Sessions cannot continue to ignore the dangers that all-cash operations invite. We need to get serious about this and make these changes now.”
"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. How many more armed robberies must we witness and security guards lives lost before we take action?” said Rep. Perlmutter. “House Republicans claim to despise regulation but yet they are governing the House under one of the most regulated processes I’ve ever seen – and at the sake of making communities in Colorado and across our country safer.”
The failure of House Republican leadership to take up this amendment, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, comes after a security guard was killed at a marijuana dispensary in Aurora, Colorado this past weekend.
Laws in 25 states and the District of Columbia now allow either medical or adult-use of marijuana. Since marijuana businesses are blocked from the banking industry and thus forced to operate in cash-only , these small businesses are targets for crime and robbery, putting employees, customers, bystanders and law enforcement at risk. Financial institutions that provide banking services to legitimate marijuana businesses are subject to criminal prosecution for "aiding and abetting" a federal crime and money laundering since marijuana is still listed under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
On April 29, 2015, Perlmutter and Heck, along with a bipartisan group of 36 other Republicans and Democrats, re-introduced H.R. 2076, the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 to resolve the banking crisis marijuana-related businesses are facing. The legislation removes current legal uncertainty by providing a "safe harbor" and additional civil protections for depository institutions who provide a "financial product or service" to a covered business.
The 113th Congress adopted a similar amendment to the FY15 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill on July16, 2014 with a bi-partisan vote of 231-192.