Newly empowered congressional Democrats reportedly plan to hold a House hearing next week on marijuana businesses’ difficulties accessing banks—signifying renewed momentum for cannabis issues on Capitol Hill following years of blockades by the former Republican leadership of the chamber.
Party leaders are also laying the groundwork to vote on a marijuana banking bill soon, Marijuana Moment has learned.
Politico first reported on Monday night that the House Financial Services Committee was planning a hearing on the topic, which cited “sources familiar with the matter” as saying it could be scheduled for Wednesday, February 13—though nothing is formally on the calendar yet.
Big –> House Financial Services is planning a hearing next week on marijuana banking legislation, sources familiar say https://t.co/U1dAIoEFEb
— Zachary Warmbrodt (@Zachary) February 5, 2019
A source separately told Marijuana Moment that preparations are now well underway for a “full committee markup in the coming months” on legislation to clear the way for cannabis businesses to gain access to banking services.
A February 13 hearing on the issue would come almost exactly five years to the day after the Obama administration’s Treasury Department issued a Valentine’s Day 2014 memo outlining guidance for how banks can serve cannabis businesses without running afoul of federal regulators.
That document encouraged some financial services providers to work with marijuana businesses, but many banks remain reluctant until federal law is formally changed. As a result, many cannabis growers, processors and sellers conduct their state-legal activities on an all-cash basis, which can make them targets for robberies.
Republican leaders blocked cannabis banking amendments and other marijuana measures during the past several Congresses. But new Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said after the midterm elections that “it’s inevitable we are going to have to talk about” the marijuana banking issue.
In a memo to party leaders in October, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) suggested a step-by-step approach for how Democrats could foster the federal legalization of marijuana in 2019. The document suggests that Financial Services and other committees first begin holding hearings on incremental issues like banking, research and veterans’ access between January and March, which would put the reported hearing next week on track with the plan.
Also in the document, Blumenauer suggested that committees begin voting on cannabis reform bills by April.