The Republican chairman of the Senate Banking Committee said on Tuesday that he couldn’t promise that his panel will take up a bipartisan bill to shield banks that service marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal financial regulators.
The legislation—called the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act—was approved by the House Financial Services Committee last month. It now awaits placement on the calendar for a full House floor vote, but Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that may be about as far as it goes.
“As long as cannabis is illegal under federal law, it seems to me to be difficult for us to resolve this,” the chairman said. “This is something that the Department of Justice deals with before” congressional action.
— POLITICO Pro (@POLITICOPro) April 30, 2019
Crapo made the comments, which were first reported by Politico, at a conference for the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).
While he said we “need to get this issue resolved,” he cast doubts on the prospect of a vote in his committee.
“I cannot make a commitment as to whether we will take up legislation yet because we want to see how we can resolve this difference between criminal law and our financial law,” he said.
On the House side, the bill currently has 168 cosponsors, which is more than one-third of the chamber. Just over one-fifth of the Senate has signed on as cosponsors of the companion version, filed by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) earlier this month.
Advocates regard the modest reform measure as one of the first steps on a congressional path toward ending federal cannabis prohibition.
ICBA—like several other associations representing financial institutions—supports allowing banks to take on cannabis business accounts. In a statement on the group’s priorities for 2019, there’s a section on the issue.
“Advocating federal legislation establishing a safe harbor from federal sanctions for banks that serve cannabis-related businesses in states where cannabis is legal under state law,” is an ICBA priority.
“In congressional meetings, community bankers will be advocating regulatory relief through ICBA’s Community Focus 2020 platform as well as Bank Secrecy Act modernization, a federal safe harbor for banking legal cannabis-related businesses, and other reforms,” the group said in a press release about its members’ legislative activity around the group’s conference in Washington, D.C. this week.