WASHINGTON — Marijuana businesses and banks looking to open their doors to the potentially lucrative clients suffered a blow Wednesday after House Republicans blocked an amendment that would have prevented federal regulators from pursuing enforcement actions against banks dealing with the businesses in states with legalized pot.
"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," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.
The amendment was stripped from the House Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill before it could reach the chamber floor even though it had support from Republicans representing California, Colorado and Nevada. A similar provision passed a Senate panel last week.
"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,' " said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., who sponsored the amendment along with Perlmutter.
If the amendment was adopted it would have prevented federal regulators funded by the appropriations bill from penalizing banks and credit unions offering services to marijuana-related businesses.
Heck and Perlmutter criticized House leadership for denying the amendment before it could win a vote.
"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," Heck said.
Perlmutter said that "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."
While the amendment was blocked, Perlmutter and Heck have co-sponsored stand-alone legislation that would go further in providing marijuana businesses access to financial services.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of either medical and or recreational marijuana.