House goes full steam ahead with cannabis protections for banking

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Thursday, June 24, a House subcommittee decided to approve an expansive funding bill that would safeguard banks from being penalized if they work with cannabis businesses. 

A voice vote from the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Subcommittee saw the bill gain approval. 

The proposed FY22 Financial Services and General Government spending measure contains provisions regarding the District of Columbia’s budget.

In addition to this, the large-scale funding bill would permit Washington, D.C. to legalize cannabis sales.

Cannabis possession was decriminalized in D.C. seven years ago

The District legalized cannabis possession and home-growing by means of a voter initiative in 2014. Unfortunately, Congress’ budget rider has since made it difficult for the local government to establish a commercial cannabis sales program that is both transparent and licensed.

Congressional Democrats made the effort to promote cannabis banking protections. Contrastingly, President Joe Biden’s budget framework, which was released in May, maintains a very different focus in terms of setting cannabis policies. 

Biden’s budget suggested that Republican-steered restrictions on cannabis-focused spending specifically, limitations pertaining to the regulation of adult-use cannabis commerce should continuously be imposed.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was “very disappointed” with Biden’s budget

Shortly after the publication of Biden’s budget, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that she was “very disappointed” with his decision. Norton emphasized the fact that the U.S. President has previously voiced support to recognize D.C. as an independent nation.

Since the legal framework outlined in the banking-related provision grants D.C. the freedom to spend local money in any way it pleases, Norton says that the D.C.’s right to self-government could assist with recreational cannabis commercialization.

“With Democrats controlling the White House, House and Senate, we have the best opportunity in over a decade to enact a spending bill with no anti-home-rule riders, as this D.C. appropriations bill does and as I requested,” said Norton.

Back in April, District Mayor Muriel Bowser said that local officials must progress with the execution of a legal recreational cannabis sales system in the nation’s capital once the final “hurdle” of congressional interference is dealt with.

The long delay in granting cannabis protections for banking institutions has been attributed to an amendment that was added by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) when the House was dominated by Republicans; no efforts were made to rescind the amendment in annual appropriations legislation. 

On numerous occasions, the House has approved spending bills that exclude the cannabis ban. However, the idea of granting cannabis protections for banking institutions was previously put forward by the Senate in final enacted legislation; mainly because GOP control was insistent on its reinsertion.