Hemp protections added to House pot banking bill

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WASHINGTON — The lead sponsor of a House bill to enable financial institutions to serve legal marijuana businesses has expanded the legislation to include a provision aimed at garnering more bipartisan support.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., has expanded the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, or SAFE Banking Act, to include protections for industrial hemp businesses. The changes come as the full House is expected to vote on the legislation next week.

The SAFE Banking Act, which would prohibit federal banking regulators from penalizing financial institutions for serving marijuana businesses that are compliant with state laws, advanced out of the House Financial Services Committee in a 45-15 vote in March. All of the committee’s Democrats were joined by 11 Republicans in support of the legislation.

Bankers have been pushing for Congress to provide clarity on whether they can serve marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the substance. Cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug on the federal level.

The Republican-controlled Senate has long been viewed as an obstacle for any movement on pot banking, but Perlmutter’s changes could make the legislation more amenable to Senate leaders.

The Senate last year legalized industrial hemp in a farm bill, which was a push by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But bankers have complained they still face regulatory resistance to servicing hemp growers and other businesses.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has also recently signaled that he hopes to resolve the conflict between the federal ban on pot and states’ legalization for the banking industry.

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Marijuana banking Marijuana industry Regulatory reform Mike Crapo Mitch McConnell House Financial Services Committee