A key group of federal lawmakers have been standing in the way of allowing legal pot businesses from accessing banking services, but now it looks like they're finally coming around on the issue.
Right now, most cannabis businesses have to operate without access to banks or financial services because of federal prohibition. Even though these businesses are operating in states that have legalized cannabis use, most banks won't go near them because they could face prosecution for helping people break federal law. A congressional bill known as the SAFE Banking Act would change that, and it's received widespread support from some prominent stakeholders. The bill has been endorsed by the Bankers Associations of every state as well as 38 state Attorneys General and a number of State Treasurers as well. The bill has already passed through the House Financial Services Committee by a large margin and is expected to be handily approved by the full House when it goes up for the vote.
But a number of US senators have been holding out. Most notably, Senate Banking Committee Chair Mike Crapo has previously stated that he will not schedule a hearing for the bill in his committee.
Now Senator Crapo appears to be changing his tune, according to one of the most cannabis-friendly Republicans in Congress.
That sentiment was echoed by Senate Banking Committee member and the bill's co-sponsor Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
"He didn't say 'hell no' to bringing the bill to his committee," said Cramer. "I thought he was quite open-minded to it."
Cramer also reported that Crapo's biggest concern was that allowing banking access to marijuana business might give cannabis quasi-legal status. However, Cramer told Crapo that the committee should just deal with the issue at hand.
"My two cents-worth is that I think [federal legalization] can be sorted out, but shouldn't prevent us from discussing the banking-specific piece of it."
That means the SAFE Banking Act seems very well poised to become the first piece of standalone cannabis reform legislation to pass through Congress.
And that's a move that would be good for everyone involved with the industry, from consumers who are sick of having to pay in cash only, to dispensaries that can't get loans or other financial services due to the status quo.