US House lawmakers make marijuana banking reform pitch to key senator

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The four lead sponsors of the successful cannabis banking bill in the U.S. House of Representatives are urging the chair of a key U.S. Senate panel to work in partnership to move the issue forward in the Republican-controlled Senate.

In a letter released Tuesday, the four representatives praised Senate Banking Chair Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, for his attention to the issue.

The two Democrats and two Republicans who signed the letter also emphasized the shared goals of addressing public-safety concerns that currently result from cannabis-related transactions outside the regulated banking system.

The letter noted that marijuana businesses are targets for crime because of the cash on hand. In fact, burglaries at cannabis businesses are increasing in some areas.

The full House passed the so-called SAFE Banking Act last September by an overwhelming 321-103 vote.

The bill would enable financial institutions to serve cannabis-related businesses without fear of federal reprisal.

Crapo now is considering his own, more restrictive version.

A month ago, he unveiled details about his thinking and asked for input.

The House group said it welcomed discussing Crapo’s concerns about how to “keep out bad actors and prevent illicit cash from entering the financial system.” But the lawmakers don’t want Crapo’s version to impose “unworkable burdens on financial institutions.”

Experts say that Crapo seems committed to advancing a cannabis banking bill, but the timing is uncertain.

Full Senate approval remains a high hurdle, however.

– Jeff Smith