- Sen. Mike Crapo, R-ID, wants to hold a vote before the end of the year on legislation that would allow banks to service state-legalized cannabis businesses, according to Politico.
- "We're working to try to get a bill ready. I'm looking to see whether we can thread the needle," said Crapo, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
- Crapo's comments come as lawmakers are facing increasing pressure from banks and marijuana-related businesses to solve an issue that has kept the majority of financial institutions from servicing the growing cannabis industry.
Passage of legislation that would protect banks who service marijuana-related businesses would be a major victory for the cannabis industry, which has remained largely cash-based because of a lack of access to banking services.
It would also provide a safe harbor for banks and credit unions that want to service the sector but feel the risk is too high because of marijuana's designation as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law.
There are several bills in Congress that seek to solve the issue.
The House is expected to hold a vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act soon. The bill, which would create protections for financial institutions that provide services to cannabis-related businesses, has been approved by the House Financial Services Committee and has 206 co-sponsors, including 26 Republicans.
A Senate version of the bill, which was introduced in April, has 31 co-sponsors, five of which are Republicans.
"There are other bills out there," Crapo told Politico. "We may craft our own bill or we may work with them to craft any amended legislation."
Crapo's remarks highlight the senator's evolving views on pot. His decision to hold a hearing on cannabis and banking in July came as a surprise, given his previous remarks on the issue.
The senator told an audience at an Independent Community Bankers of America conference in April that he couldn't promise his panel would hear the SAFE Banking bill.
"As long as cannabis is illegal under federal law, it seems to me to be difficult for us to resolve this," Crapo said. "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."
Crapo told Politico his decision to pass a cannabis banking bill is motivated by the situation's impact on ancillary businesses, such as plumbers and hardware stores that may help a dispensary set up shop.
"The impact on the ability of small and large businesses to operate justifies our attention," he said.
Industry trade groups such as the American Bankers Association and the Credit Union National Association have voiced their support for the SAFE Banking Act.