The Jamaican government will be putting pressure on the U.S. Congress to approve bipartisan legislation that would shield banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses, the country’s finance minister says.
Speaking at a recent trade show convention, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said that Jamaica will use its diplomatic channels to advocate for the bill, which cleared the House Financial Services Committee in March.
The minister said that “most U.S. banks do not want anything to do with money from the cannabis industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal,” and that has posed challenges to Jamaica’s medical cannabis market. The Jamaican market fears “being de-risked by their international counterparts in the U.S.”
“All of our local commercial banks are obliged right now to go through the New York system as it relates to the movement of money internationally,” he said, according to a post on a government news portal on Friday.
He also referenced a letter that attorneys general representing 38 states sent to congressional leaders last month, urging lawmakers to approve the banking legislation.
Shaw specified that he was focused on medical cannabis and said that Jamaica “probably can do better than anybody in this” industry.
Another Jamaican government official made a similar claim last year, arguing that marijuana is the country’s “birthright.” He also underscored the importance of expanding research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis.
While Shaw discussed the importance of reforming U.S. banking laws for the medical cannabis industry, he’s also supportive of legalizing the plant for adult use as well.
“I have been saying for a while that the time will come for the establishment of a legalized marijuana and hemp industry where we can achieve the level of economic growth we have been aiming for,” he said in June.
While the fate of the banking bill is less clear in the Senate, it quietly advanced in the House on Wednesday after a key committee discharged the legislation without a report, setting it up for a full floor vote that’s expected in coming weeks. The bill is now pending on the House Union Calendar.