Packages of marijuana labeled for recreational use. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

Congress says “meh” to marijuana banking bill

As cannabis workers carry cash by the briefcase throughout Colorado, the lack of interest in Washington suggests that a bill to green-light banking practices for the marijuana industry is headed nowhere fast.

Federal legislation that could end cash-only practices in the marijuana industry will likely remain stuck in committee this year, with near silence from Washington lawmakers as to why it has.

A Denver Post survey of the two House committees that could take immediate action found only one member outside the bill’s signed supporters and the Colorado delegation had interest in discussing the subject.

Four of 60 members of the Financial Services Committee and one of the 39 Judiciary Committee members said they had no position. The rest did not respond.

Most Colorado members are in favor of the bill, but the delegation is mixed.

The Colorado-rooted bill at the center of the issue, HR 2652, would allow banks to do business with pot retailers and businesses in states that legalize the drug, and was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in July by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., and Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash.

“The almost universal response is the rolling of one’s eyes,” Heck said of his attempts to discuss the bill.

Under the bill, recreational and medical marijuana enterprises legalized in 20 states and the District of Columbia could open bank accounts and use credit cards. Businesses within the industry operate cash-only because financial institutions fear prosecution should they offer banking services to the federally illegal marijuana industry.

“We need from a public safety and a crime perspective to allow legal businesses in the state of Colorado to operate in a normal business fashion,” Perlmutter said. “And not simply operate on major piles of cash.”

Perlmutter expects five more states to legalize medical or recreational marijuana by the end of this year.

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Perlmutter and Heck said they have pressed for action since the bill was introduced but are pessimistic about its prospects this year. The bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in either committee.

“The sunshine of a hearing would change the discussion of this,” Heck said.

Both said that for the bill to have a chance of passing, more states will need to legalize marijuana.

For Perlmutter, who was not aware on Friday that the bill was stuck in more than one committee, the likelihood of it moving forward is dependent on the Republican leadership in the committees.

“If I were in the majority and Democrats were running the House, you can bet it would have gotten a hearing,” Perlmutter said. “If you want to just get down to basic power and how this place operates, that’s it.”

According to Perlmutter and Heck, the majority leadership and the members of the Financial Services committee have little interest in discussing the matter because it is perceived as a marijuana issue rather than a banking one. Most committee members represent constituencies that do not have any form of legalized marijuana.

Related: Only Congress can fix pot problem, Colorado banking group says

Republican leadership assigned it to the Financial Services and Judiciary committees on July 10, 2013, the same day Perlmutter introduced it with signed support from 16 other Democrats and two Republicans. Today the bill has 29 total co-sponsors, including representatives who do not sit on the committees.

Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, co-sponsored the bill. Reps. Tipton, R-Cortez, and Gardner, R-Yuma), have not taken positions, and Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. Springs, opposes the legislation. If the bill were to make it to the U.S. Senate, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet supports it, and Sen. Mark Udall has not taken a position. Both senators are Democrats.

Perlmutter’s membership in the House Financial Services Committee was the primary reason he assumed responsibility of the banking topic. He said he has met with committee leadership at least once a month for the past eight to stress the importance of legal marijuana banking.

Perlmutter said cash sitting in marijuana shops invites robbery, assault and battery, tax evasion, skimming and fraud. Because marijuana dispensaries are primarily small operations, he said their banking concerns are also a small-business issue.

From property financing to ATMs in pot shops, more coverage on Colorado banking

On Feb. 14, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued a statement delineating how banks could “enhance the availability of financial services for, and the financial transparency of, marijuana-related businesses.”

When Perlmutter met with committee leadership last week, they wanted to understand why the federal guidance does not solve problems related to the cash-only system. In Colorado, bankers have signaled that they are not comfortable with the rule change and would rather see legislative action.

Perlmutter also pointed out that a change in the White House could end the new banking regulations.

How they responded … or didn’t


Sponsors (supporting)

Ed Perlmutter (D-Lakewood)

Denny Heck (D-Wash.)

Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)

Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.)

Ranking members with no response

Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chairman

Gary G. Miller (R-Calif.), Vice Chairman

Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Chairman Emeritus

Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Minority Ranking Member

Members with no response

Peter T. King (R-N.Y.)

Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.)

Scott Garrett (R-N.J.)

Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)

Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.)

John Campbell (R-Calif.)

Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Bill Posey (R-Fla.)

Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)

Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)

Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.)

Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.)

Sean P. Duffy (R-Wis.)

Robert Hurt (R-Va.)

Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Steve Stivers (R-Ohio)

Stephen Lee Fincher (R-Tenn.)

Marlin A. Stutzman (R-Ind.)

Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)

Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.)

Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.)

Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.)

Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)

Garland “Andy” Barr (R-Ky.)

Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.)

Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.)

Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)

Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas)

Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)

Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.)

Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)

David Scott (D-Ga.)

Al Green (D-Texas)

Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)

Jim Himes (D-Conn.)

Gary Peters (D-Mich.)

John Carney (D-Del.)

Terri Sewell (D-Ala.)

Bill Foster (D-Ill.)

Dan Kildee (D-Mich.)

Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.)

John Delaney (D-Md.)

Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

Members with no position

Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)

Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)

Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio)

Members opposed

Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)


Sponsors (supporting)

Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)

Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)

Ranking members with no response

Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman

John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Minority Ranking Member

Members with no response

Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)

Howard Coble (R-N.C.)

Lamar Smith (R-Texas)

Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)

Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.)

Darrell Issa (R- Calif.)

J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.)

Steve King (R-Iowa)

Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)

Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Ted Poe (R-Texas)

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Tom Marino (R-Pa.)

Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)

Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)

George Holding (R-N.C.)

Doug Collins (R-Ga.)

Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)

Jason Smith (R-Mo.)

Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)

Bobby Scott (D-Va.)

Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

Hank Johnson (D-Ga.)

Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico)

Judy Chu (D-Calif.)

Ted Deutch (D-Fla.)

Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)

Karen Bass (D-Calif.)

Cedric Richmond (D-La.)

Joe Garcia (D-Fla.)

Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)

David Cicilline (D- R.I.)

members listed by seniority

Kate Gibbons: 303-954-1016, or Alison Noon: 303-954-1223, or

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