The House of Representatives voted to help state approved marijuana business across the country today. In a vote of 231 to 192 the House approved an amendment from Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to H.R. 5016 which should make it easier for marijuana business to get access to basic banking services.
The amendment would prohibit funds being used by federal agencies to penalize a financial institution solely because they provide financial services to marijuana business which are approved under state law.
One of the biggest and most pressing problems for state approved medical marijuana and adult use marijuana businesses is a lack of access to basic banking services. Since marijuana is still listed as a Schedule I drug under federal law most banks are unwilling to take their accounts. This has forced the industry to be almost all cash based, which creates many problems ranging from an increased risk of theft to not being able to physically pay their taxes without being fined by the IRS.
Unfortunately for the marijuana industry, the bill now containing this amendment is unlikely to become law. The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill for several reasons. Still it is an important sign of how much the politics around marijuana are changing in Congress, and it sends a message to federal agencies about what the House thinks is the best use of their limited resources.
The fact that the issue has been shown to have majority support in the House makes it more likely the problem will eventually be dealt with at some point.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo by Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance used with permission