Vaping deaths could slow pot banking momentum

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WASHINGTON — A bill to enable banks to serve marijuana businesses may have hit an unexpected speed bump as policymakers try to respond to a spike in vaping-related deaths.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, who has been working on a pot banking bill to bring before the panel, said he wants to revise the legislation to ensure it does not benefit providers of vaping products that have sparked recent safety concerns. Vaping is one way users consumer pot.

Crapo said the safety of certain vaping products that contain THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, will be a factor in legislative talks. The bill is meant to help banks serve businesses in the states where marijuana is legal.

“That’s a good example of one of the big concerns that I have that we do need to address in the bill, which is the health and safety aspects of the use,” Crapo said in an interview. “So we are working to revise the bill and to develop the support for the bill to move forward.”

Crapo said the committee needs to consider the types of cannabis products that can be banked under the bill, suggesting that products that involve vaping could be excluded. He compared that approach to certain state policies that restrict how tobacco can be consumed.

“Every state has some sort of regulatory parameters about the utilization of tobacco … the types of products that are going to be allowed,” Crapo said. “That gets into a legal issue that I think the states need to be more engaged in. But it also impacts the question on what would we bank.”

Crapo’s comments come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently warned about the use of vaping products, given that 26 vaping-related deaths have been reported in 21 states as of Oct. 11. The CDC said most patients suffering from vaping-related illnesses reported the use of products that contain THC.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who sits on the Banking Committee, told American Banker that she is also concerned about the spike in deaths related to vaping products, but she suggested Congress can address those concerns separately from the marijuana banking bill.

“We’ve seen this in Minnesota and the concern is that … there’s no oversight over what’s happening with vaping,” Smith said. “I think that we can move forward on the [SAFE Banking Act] and we can do two things at the same time there.”

The Senate Banking Committee is working on the cannabis banking bill after the House last month overwhelmingly passed the SAFE Banking Act, which would bar federal financial regulators from penalizing an institution that provides services to marijuana-related businesses in states where the substance is legal.

Crapo has indicated that he would like to move a similar measure in the Senate this year, but has said that there are a number of issues relating to safety and money laundering that need to be addressed before he holds a committee vote.

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Marijuana banking Regulatory reform Community banking Finance, investment and tax-related legislation Mike Crapo Senate Banking Committee