- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bankers associations for 50 states and Puerto Rico signed a letter Monday asking senators to consider letting financial institutions legally work with state-legal marijuana businesses.

“The undersigned state bankers associations, which represent banks of all sizes, write to urge the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee to conduct hearings on the merits of providing cannabis-related businesses access to banking services,” the 51 groups wrote to the panel’s chairman and ranking member.

“Although we do not take a position on the legalization of marijuana, our members are committed to serving the financial needs of their communities—including those that have voted to legalize cannabis. We believe federal action is necessary and support a solution that would allow banks to serve cannabis-related businesses in states where the activity is legal,” the letter said.

Marijuana is federally prohibited on account of being classified as a Schedule 1 drug, effectively making it subject to strict government controls reserved for narcotics with no acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Most states have legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, though, putting their laws in direct conflicting with the federal government’s and accordingly creating obstacles, banking and otherwise.

Banks are often reluctant to work with state-legal marijuana businesses because of the plant’s status as a controlled substance and the associated risks of being penalized for violating federal drug law and banking statutes.

A bill that would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access the federal banking industry, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, easily passed the Democratic-controlled House Financial Services Committee by a 45-15 in March. Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho Republican and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, recently refused to commit to bringing the bill to a vote before his own panel, however.

“As long as cannabis is illegal under federal law, it seems to me to be difficult for us to resolve this,” he said last month. “This is something that the Department of Justice deals with before” Congress.

The joint letter was sent to Mr. Crapo and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Neither immediately returned requests for comment.

Thirty-three states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, including 10 that passed laws legalizing recreational use among adults.

Attorneys general for 37 states signed a letter last month asking the House and Senate to let marijuana businesses access the federal banking system, meanwhile.

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