The Republican-controlled US Senate will host a hearing on cannabis banking today.
The hearing, titled “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” is both unexpected and unprecedented. Legalization supporters Senators Cory Gardner and Jeff Merkley are scheduled to testify before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, along with Rachel Pross, chief risk officer at Maps Credit Union, Joanne Sherwood, president and CEO of Citywide Banks, Garth Van Meter, VP of government affairs at anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and John Lord, CEO of LivWell Enlightened Health, a cannabis company.
Financial institutions, even in states where cannabis is legal, are usually hesitant to serve cannabis businesses while cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. Hence the SAFE Banking Act, which provides legal protection to financial institutions serving the cannabis industry.
The Act was endorsed by the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services in a historic vote in March. But the Act has to clear several legislative hurdles before it can pass Congress. (Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of the House vote here.)
Cannabis Wire reported in April on the banking and insurance industry’s lobbying efforts around the Act in the first quarter of 2019, with major organizations such as Wells Fargo, HSBC North America, and the American Family Mutual Insurance Company joining the debate on cannabis banking. (Read Cannabis Wire’s reports on first quarter lobbying data here and here).