Cannabis News of Note for the Week:
Politico Pro Cannabis: Silicon Valley Bank Crisis Punts Cannabis Banking Bill (paywalled newsletter, full text below)
Cannabis Wire Daily: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says regulators “looking for solutions” in cannabis banking.(paywalled newsletter, full text below)
Politico Pro Cannabis: SILICON VALLEY BANK CRISIS PUNTS CANNABIS BANKING BILL — Senators on Capitol Hill were hoping to introduce the cannabis banking bill before Easter break, but that hope has been dashed by the Silicon Valley Bank crisis.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a cosponsor of the bill in the previous Congress, on Thursday told Natalie that he thought the SAFE Banking Act could be reintroduced as early as next week. However, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), another key GOP supporters, said that he is not sure it will be ready by the time the Senate leaves town at the end of March.
“The banking committee has had some other things to think about,” Daines said — referring to the SVB crisis. “We’re gonna keep pushing, but I’m not sure it’s gonna be introduced before Easter recess.”
The hope is that once the bill is introduced the Senate Banking Committee will quickly hold a hearing on it. “We want to introduce it, then move quickly on it if we can,” Daines said.
Senators have been discussing a quick pathway for the SAFE Banking Act in this Congress after a deal was reached to pair it with the HOPE Act and the GRAM Act at the tail end of the last Congress. Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-Ohio), chair of the Banking Committee, told Natalie in January that he wants to bring it quickly to the floor, and Daines said in February that he wants to see a hearing and markup held on it soon.
Whether the bill introduced in this Congress will still include HOPE, a bill that would give states funding to expunge cannabis-related criminal records, and GRAM, which would protect the rights of cannabis users to own firearms, is still unclear.
Cannabis Wire: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says regulators “looking for solutions” in cannabis banking.
During a hearing yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee, focused on Biden’s 2024 budget proposal, Sen. Michael Bennet asked Yellen about cannabis banking.
First, he spoke about the issue through the lens of cannabis businesses in the state he represents, Colorado.
“Marijuana has been legal in Colorado for nine years, but legal cannabis businesses are frozen out of the financial system. Banks refuse to provide them financial services because of strict federal laws and regulations that prohibit them from offering services to cannabis businesses. Banking regulators can permanently ban someone from working at a bank or revoke an institution’s FDIC coverage for working with cannabis businesses. This endangers the lives and livelihoods of Colorado business owners who have to operate in this kind of situation. They have nowhere to put their cash,” he said.
Then, he turned to the failure of Signature Bank, eventually weaving cannabis back into his statement.
“Last weekend, Signature Bank failed and almost a fifth of its deposits came from crypto. Like, they’re not allowed to do anything with marijuana but apparently they can lay 20% of this on crypto. A notoriously unstable — a thing that nobody here even understands, and where the value of the assets can soar and collapse, and we have seen that in this sector. And my question is: what questions come to your mind when you see that?” he said, adding that he would argue that crypto “isn’t even as stable as the marijuana industry in the state of Colorado, which can’t get any approval from the Treasury Department.”
To this, Yellen replied.
“As you pointed out in the case of marijuana, it is against federal law and that’s a barrier unfortunately to appropriate banking services for the industry. And it’s something the regulators have been looking for solutions to,” she said.