When Democrats re-took control of the House of Representatives during the November midterm elections, many promised that marijuana legalization would become a higher priority than under Republicans. And now Democrats have scheduled their first hearing to discuss cannabis-related issues.
On February 13th, a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the difficulties cannabis companies have opening bank accounts. While recreational marijuana may be legal in some states, banks are reluctant to work with cannabis companies since the drug is illegal at the federal level. Banks are worried that the federal government will shut them down or punish them in some way for working with marijuana businesses. Even after the Obama administration laid out guidelines for how to work with cannabis companies, banks have still been reluctant to do so.
For marijuana businesses, access to banking is a top priority. Many cannabis companies operate as cash-only businesses, which often makes them a target for robberies.
A previously proposed bill to allow marijuana businesses to use banks received 95 co-sponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate. However Republicans never allowed the bill to receive a vote.
It's believed that these hearings will lead to a vote on a similar bill in the next few months. Of course, even if the House were to pass such a bill, it would still require support from the Senate, which is still controlled by Republicans, and President Donald Trump in order to become law.
So we may soon see whether Democrats controlling the House alone will be enough to get marijuana legislation passed, or if they'll need to retake the Senate and White House for these bills to become a reality.