This week, a Senate committee voted to kill a federal budget amendment that would have protected banks willing to serve the cannabis industry from federal interference. Under current law, any bank that handles funds related to an illegal drug can face money laundering charges, a situation which forces the cannabis industry to operate on a cash-only basis. Pro-cannabis legislators have floated a number of bills and measures to address the issue, but so far without success.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee voted against the Safe Banking Amendment, a rider to the 2019 federal budget bill which would have specifically prohibited the U.S. Department of Treasury from penalizing any financial institutions that choose to open accounts for state-legal cannabis businesses. Senator Jeff Merkley proposed a similar measure in the Senate, which has generally been more open to cannabis-related measures than the House.
In a short debate preceding the vote, Merkley argued that the cash-only nature of the cannabis industry is "a big problem because it's great for organized crime, it's great for money laundering, it's great for theft and larceny, it's great for cheating on taxes, it's great for cheating on your payroll," Forbes reports. "We're really facilitating crime by not enabling the banking industry to provide basic services."