‘I, Too, Share Your Concern’: Treasury Secretary Urges Bipartisan Banking Fix for Cannabis Industry
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‘I, Too, Share Your Concern’: Treasury Secretary Urges Bipartisan Banking Fix for Cannabis Industry

In comments on banking, Steve Mnuchin avoided advocating for federal legalization of cannabis.

April 15, 2019

Federal lawmakers asked for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s take on cannabis banking solutions during an April 9 House appropriations subcommittee hearing, as Marijuana Moment first reported. The back-and-forth picked up the general sense of momentum following the SAFE Banking Act’s passage out of the House Financial Services Committee in late March.

“There is not a Treasury solution to this,” Mnuchin said. “There is not a regulator solution to this. If this is something that Congress wants to look at on a bipartisan basis, I’d encourage you to do this. This is something where there is a conflict between federal and state law that we and the regulators have no way of dealing with.”

Rather than getting into the question of federal legalization or rescheduling of cannabis via the Controlled Substances Act, Mnuchin pointed to a legislative fix aimed squarely at banking protections for the fragmented industry. The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for providing services to cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state laws.

Already, that bill has made it further in the Congressional legislative process than any other cannabis banking-related bill.

“Let me just say, I hope this is something that this committee can on a bipartisan basis work with since there are people on both sides of the aisle that share these concerns,” Mnuchin said. “I will just say I don’t believe this is a failure of the regulators. I want to defend the regulators on this issue.”

HR 1595 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, though lawmakers suggest a full floor vote is coming. The bill lists 165 cosponsors, including some Republicans.

After the House Financial Services Committee approved the bill (with a 45-15 vote), U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The American Bankers Association quickly followed up with a letter to senators, urging action on this bill.

“This bipartisan legislation takes an important step toward enabling financial services for cannabis-related businesses,” the letter stated. “We believe such explicit, consistent direction from federal financial regulators will provide some needed clarity for banks and help them to better evaluate the risks and supervisory expectations for cannabis-related customers.”